It wasn’t all that long ago that Bobby Melley was a student himself. In 2016, the 6-foot-3 senior first baseman from Barnstable, Massachusetts hit .313/.526/.438 and was named second team All-Conference, earning him a 34th round selection in the MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. After two years of Minor League Baseball, Melley is back in the college game as an assistant coach at Manhattan College. Staff Writer Matt Barresi caught up with Melley on a little bit about his past, as well as his future in coaching.
Matt Barresi: I’ll start off with your past. What was it like being a Cape Cod kid and getting to play in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League? Were you involved at all as a kid, like being a bat boy or going to the youth clinics?
Bobby Melley: Being around the Cape League as a kid made me fall in love with the game, and it quickly became a dream of mine to one day be able to play on those same fields. I started as a bat boy for Hyannis, and then played for them for 3 years while at UConn, and started as a coach for them this past summer. It has really come full circle now and it’s been a very memorable experience.
MB: Despite being from Barnstable, you attended BC High, which is an athletics powerhouse, for high school. What went into that decision and how did you balance everything with what must have been an arduous commute?
BM: My best friend and I decided to make the commitment together to go to BC High and make the two-hour commute each morning to school, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It allowed me to mature and grow as a person, while being able to focus on furthering my career in baseball. It was an everyday challenge, and the baseball is the most competitive you can find in the state, so it helped me really understand what it takes to be successful.
MB: What were some of the biggest differences between college baseball and the minor leagues?
BM: Obviously the talent difference is the first thing most people would say, but the biggest difference for me was the team aspect. Everyone in pro ball is fighting to move up the ladder and to beat you out, and the team aspect from college kind of goes out the window. The individual goals took precedent over the team goals in pro ball, and realizing that was a tough adjustment. You have no days off, you’re at the field every day all day and on a bus traveling from city to city for hours through the night. To stay locked-in and focused day in and day out with the limited amenities provided to minor leaguers really will weed out the mentally weak quickly. Every night you are facing top-tier talent, so if you take a day off or try to take the easy way out, then you will get exposed quickly.
MB: Along those same lines, what were some of the things about pro ball that you did not anticipate or expect?
BM: There wasn’t much that I didn’t expect or didn’t prepare for. You hear how tough the conditions in the minor leagues can be and you are ready for it, but you don’t really know how tough it is until you’re going through it. There were many nights where doubt naturally crept into your mind, especially as a late-rounder, but you have to keep your head up and fight through it. You think you are ready for everything until you’re 0 for your last 25 and on a bus at 3 a.m. in the middle of the mountains in West Virginia. Those are the times where you really find out who you are as a ballplayer.
MB: You had a short career, but there must have been some highs and lows. What are some memories from your time that will stay with you?
BM: I have countless memories from all the bus rides, time spent with teammates in the clubhouse and the many different cities and towns I got to play in. Everything to me was memorable and each day you experienced something new. I still love and miss playing the game and all the preparation that goes into each day and I still haven’t fully closed the door on playing again, so we will see how everything plays out from here.
MB: In that same vein, what is one thing you will miss, and one thing you will not miss, from your time as a professional?
BM: I miss just being out there playing and having fun competing against the best this game has to offer. It’s tough to grasp that thought of finally being done and putting those spikes away. I won’t miss some of the other aspects of pro ball and how some things are run and how some decisions are ultimately made, but that is the nature of the business nowadays.
MB: How long was coaching something you figured you may do post-playing?
BM: I always was interested in coaching and the thought of teaching the game to others. This game has given me so much and it’s only right to try to give back to it by teaching the game and helping it continue to grow. I was always thinking (about) the game like I was a coach when I was playing, so to me it is just something that feels natural. I didn’t really know if it would be the career path I wanted after playing until I was made captain at UConn my final two years and was able to help lead and teach those teams as the captains before me did to me. There are other parts of the game outside of coaching which I was always interested in as well and always wanted to pursue those someday as well, but I always knew that baseball would be involved with whatever I chose.
MB: Did you ever consult with Coach Penders or any of the assistants while you were at UConn in order to prepare?
BM: I don’t know if I ever consulted with them directly over the thought of coaching, but I made sure to keep a close eye on how things are done. I was always trying to learn and gain more knowledge every day. I wasn’t asking questions, but I was always observing and taking notes on what it was going to take if I ever became a coach. That started off on a notepad back in the dorms at UConn and has turned into a running list of over 50 pages of things I’ve learned or observed over the years that will help me going forward. That was a nightly chore for me, I always made sure to write and reflect on anything new I learned every single day. A lot of those notes came from the lessons learned from Coach Penders, Hourigan and Dez, and I owe a lot to them.
MB: Outside of direct advice, is there anything you took from Penders and co. from observing them as a player?
BM: Just the commitment and passion you have to have for your players and the program each and every day.
MB: How did you come into this role at Manhattan?
BM: I hadn’t pursued it and didn’t even know there was an opening available until Jordan Tabakman (UConn Teammate/UAlbany pitching coach) gave me a call one night and told me about it and wanted to know if I was interested. He had been talking to Coach Cole and the next day I was able to get on the phone with him, and it went from there.
MB: What are some of your primary responsibilities in your position with the Jaspers?
BM: I primarily work with the hitters as well as working with the catchers and outfielders defensively.
MB: What did/do you feel some of your strengths as a coach are coming into this? Conversely, where do you feel you are going to need to learn and improve?
BM: I think my main strength is just my experience from playing and all the valuable lessons I was able to learn from all the great coaches I was fortunate to play under. I know how to get through and get the message across to college players and I can relate to them through my personal experiences and struggles as a player myself. Being a captain and a leader at UConn certainly helped me understand how to communicate and get the best out of each type of player. There is still a ton for me to learn and improve on, and I don’t think that will ever stop. There are things I have to learn and improve on in every single aspect of the game. You have to be able to embrace and adapt to that and understand that every day is a new opportunity to learn something new that will help you in the future.
MB: I know you’re very green to coaching, but philosophically, what are some of the things you or the program are trying to embrace?
BM: A hard-working, tough and competitive style of play. Trying to find the guys with the chip on their shoulder who are willing to do whatever it takes to win and be successful and who will never let up or be intimidated by any opponent or situation. We may not always be the most talented on the field, but we want our team to be the toughest and always out-work the opponent.
MB: Manhattan would be a relatively close and convenient team for UConn to play in a midweek game. Have you reached out about that at all? How would you be able to handle that divide?
BM: I don’t have much say at all in a decision like that, and I know midweek schedules are usually almost always the same each year, but I would embrace the opportunity to play UConn in a midweek. There wouldn’t be much of a divide; I would treat them like any other opponent we come across and try to do whatever it takes to find a way to beat them and get a win. I am rooting for them in every game other than when I’m with the team in the other dugout.
MB: The season just started, but I always like to ask, have you been keeping up with the Huskies baseball program? Any insights?
BM: I have been following their results closely and have been keeping tabs on how they’ve been doing. It was good to see them grab a series win on opening weekend against an old Big East foe and [I] am hoping they continue to rack up the wins throughout the season. Coach Penders and co will have them ready to go no matter who the opponent is, and it looks like they have a good collection of talented and tough guys who can compete with and beat anyone in the country. You can never count UConn out and [I] am hoping to see that Hook C in Omaha.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.