The Bronx has a shining light and the sport of baseball is the center of it all. The reason it exists for many is the TM Baseball Academy, named after Tony Melendez, a pro baseball player in Puerto Rico, who adds his 25 years in the sport as player and trainer. But in opening this academy seven years ago, its his wife Jesse Rodriguez-Melendez, who runs the administrative end of this venture.
Jesse, of Cuban and Puerto Rican parents, is a baseball fan. But her education from Lehman College has been a valuable asset as she keeps the Academy organized. “I’m responsible for overseeing the kids that we bring in, the coaches and trainers, and finances.” Jesse explained.
“I keep the appointment book full and schedule our various teams tournaments and practices.”
She also is in charge of uniforms as the academy supplies them. “I oversee the supply of our teams which we do in house. Ordering the uniforms and embroidery, accuracy of names, among other things.”
Jesse is a Bronx lady from Castle Hill. She has the background culturally to draw from the communities those who would normally not have opportunities of this sort. “We look out for the well-being of the kids, we focus on education through follow-ups and help them become more academically inclined.” Jesse reflects.
“We have a reputation for being trustworthy, what we say, we do.”
This allows kids to gain empowerment. The facility is small but does contain batting cages and a well stocked weight room. The numerous framed photos on the walls contain friends of the family like Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran. Hector Berrios, a pitching instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is one example of baseball professionals who come to the academy to assist. “These players and organizations like the New York Yankees, who provide tickets and on one occasion memorabilia for a fundraiser has been extremely important.”
The results have seen an expansion of the academy to Houston, Texas and Orlando, Florida. But its the trips to Puerto Rico, where they play teams on the island, that ring closer to home. “Most of our team is Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent.” Jesse said. ”
We took two teams there and exposed them to the culture, the food, and the beauty of the homeland.
Its the greatest baseball experience to me, especially for the kids who have never visited the island.”
Baseball is making a comeback to the areas of the cities that used to provide the talent of the past but have since declined as baseball has looked outside the U.S.for its talent. Jesse sees the emphasis to look deeper there. ”
There is an interest to revive baseball in the inner cities.”
Jesse finds this as the foundation of her joy in doing this. A sport she loves and a feeling of accomplishment in bringing kids opportunities to go higher who may not have seen themselves in such places. “I love working with the youth of this community as they aspire to greater things.”
TM Academy is not just for the boys. They also have girls who join the program. But an area of improvement they are looking to rectify is in response to the rise of softball as an option.
“There are better schlorship opportunities in softball than baseball when our girls go to high school. Next summer we will build more softball teams.”
The best thing about the academy is building futures for many young kids in the program. The numbers say 50 players went on to achieve scholarship opportunities. Jesse is most proud of this.
“The boys play for fun but as they get older, it gets more serious.
Our tournaments become showcases where they can be seen by universities and colleges and have opportunities to gain an education and continue their careers.”
Jesse Melendez appointment book sits on her heavy wooden desk filled beyond its limits. And TM Baseball Academy, with help from their friends and contacts through the years, is expanding just as fast. Its all really about respect and her work ethic demands it. It has not gone unnoticed.