By: Matt Present
Playing in the Cal Ripken League began as a challenge for Matt Mervis. A recent graduate of Georgetown Prep he was one of the youngest players on the T-bolts roster, facing established collegiate arms. In his first five games of the season he hit just .222, his five hits, all singles, and he struck out six times in just 18 at-bats.
“I struggled at the beginning of the year with pitch selection, I was pressing at the plate, trying to do too much,” said Mervis.
But Head Coach Doug Remer knew it wouldn’t be long before Mervis figured things out at the plate. That’s because it wasn’t Remer’s first time coaching Mervis. About a decade ago the T-bolts first baseman played for Coach Remer’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase travel team.
“You can never tell what someone will be like when they’re older, but he just had that look in his eye,” recalls Remer. “The next at-bat he wanted to get a hit, the next at-bat he wanted to hit it hard, the next play he wanted to make sure he picked the ball. You didn’t have to tell him what he had to do next, he just knew he had to do it.”
That drive and motivation has always been what has brought Mervis his success. As a senior at Georgetown Prep, he batted .405 with 30 hits, four home runs, and 15 RBI. As a pitcher, he was 3-0, with 34 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched, and a 1.35 ERA, earning him Second Team All-Met.
It’s the same drive that helped him quickly adjust to the Ripken League, raising his average to .411 over the 10 subsequent games. He also hit seven doubles, two home runs, and drove in 21 runs, while striking out just three times, after his first five games.
“At first, I wasn’t sure when he would be able to get that foot down in time and use both hands through the zone,” said Remer. “What Coach [Marcus] Johnson and I talk about a lot is how quickly he makes the adjustments…and that’s a skill that’s going to carry him to the next level.”
And that’s exactly where Mervis is headed, departing July 2, for Duke University, where he will look to earn a spot as a two way player.
“I’m going to play both sides of the ball as long as I can, and see what works out in the long run,” said Mervis, who settled on Duke in February of his sophomore season.
“It’s a great education, not too far from home so my parents can come watch…every factor on the checklist was fulfilled by Duke,” said Mervis who also considered a variety of ACC schools, as well as Maryland and Vanderbilt.
And while his production will be hard to replace in the T-bolts lineup, Remer says that Mervis has raised the standard around the ball club.
“He made other guys say ‘man I need to pick up my batting practice skills cause this is a high school kid,’” said Remer. “We’re hitting better than we thought we would have because of guys like that who motivate just because they’re good.”
In the games Mervis played, the T-bolts posted a record of 10-5, and he led the League in average at the time of his departure. And while he only played one month, Mervis feels like playing for the Thunderbolts gave him a glimpse into what college ball is like.
“The biggest adjustment is sitting on off-speed pitches instead of just getting fastballs every at bat,” said Mervis. “Guys here definitely throw harder, and will throw curveballs early in the count.”
As one of the youngest guys on the team, he was able to get pointers from the upperclassmen, not just on what pitches to look for, but how to manage his time at Duke, to make sure he excels both on the field and in the classroom.
While Duke is next up for Mervis, the Potomac native hopes to play at a level beyond that. Last summer he played at showcase tournaments in Tampa, Florida and Cary, North Carolina, along with some of the best high school players in the nation. Then, this summer, he was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 39th round of the MLB Draft.
While Mervis never intended to sign as a late round pick, he said that being selected is still an honor. “It means a ton,” said Mervis. “It’s a hometown team, I go to watch their games, and just imagining myself playing on that field with those guys is a crazy thing to think about.”
Mervis will now have to wait three years to be drafted again, but Remer says he has all the tools to be successful when his name is called once more. “Not very often do you see guys make adjustments that quickly,” said Remer,” he comes from a great family, the way he is with himself is impressive, plus he has good size and speed.”
But first comes summer school and workouts, followed by fall ball, and then, the real thing. And as for the T-bolts, it means trying to use the Mervis mentality to muster a deep playoff run.