Tribute to Big Ern
The Gwinnett Braves parted ways with a valuable member of their franchise on Saturday afternoon. Slugger Ernesto Mejia was relieved of his contract with the Atlanta Braves organization, so he could pursue a career overseas in the Japanese League.
Mejia served as the Gwinnett Braves first baseman for 2+ seasons. In 287 games with the G-Braves, he hit .279 (302-for-1198) with 59 homers and 199 RBI. He scored 143 runs, while swiping 18 bases.
In 2012, he was named IL Rookie of the Year after batting .296 (152-for-514) with 24 homers and 92 RBI. He earned back-to-back IL mid-season All-Star honors in 2012-2013, while leading the league in RBI both seasons.
He leaves the Gwinnett Braves as the single-season home run leader with 28, as he set the mark in 2013. While, also ranking among the G-Braves all-time leaders in homers (59, 1st), doubles (72, 1st), RBI (199. 1st), hits (302, 2nd) and runs (143, 4th).
During his time with the G-Braves he did more than enough to earn a spot with the big club, but the opportunity never presented itself at the major league level. With the emergence of Freddie Freeman at first base and others viable options on the bench, Mejia was stuck in a bad situation. Despite his lack of opportunity, the Guenare, Venezuela native didn’t get discouraged.
“But I don’t feel stuck. I know I have a lot of talent and work hard. I just happen to be behind a great first baseman and a team with so much talent that I can’t even get a spot on the bench. It’s baseball. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said in an April 26 interview with David Purdum of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Baseball answered his call with a great opportunity to showcase his talent overseas. Mejia will join the Seibu Lions of the Japanese Pacific League. Mejia will try and continue his hot start from 2014, in which he hit .354 (28-for-79) with seven homers and 24 RBI for the G-Braves.
Hopefully Big Ern does great things in the Far East and returns to the states to live out his dream of playing in the big leagues.
Like he said to me a season ago after breaking the G-Braves home run record,
“Me sueño es jugar en las grandes ligas. Pero ahorita tengo que luchar y trabajar duro. Si la oportunidad se presenta voy hacer todo en mi poder para quedarme con el quipo grande, pero si no se presenta voy a continuar a jugar a lo mejor de mi talento.”
“My dream is to play in the big leagues. But, for now I have to keep fighting and work hard. If the opportunity presents itself (at the MLB level) I will do everything in my power to stay with the big team, but if it doesn’t present itself I’m going to do the best I can with my abilities.
Writer’s Note: I covered Big Ern for a little over a season. He was one of the most engaging players in the G-Braves clubhouse, and made the best every opportunity. Ultimately knowing his fate with the Braves franchise, Mejia was never discouraged and went out there and let it fly. I saw him hit over half-a-dozen majestic clouts in his time with Gwinnett, but not a single one more memorable than his record breaker on July 20, 2013 against Brandon Cumpton. After the homer, I recall asking him how it felt to break a G-Braves record.
He humbly answered, “Honestly, I didn’t know. Obviously, I’m very excited. I never expected it. I think it’s a result of all the hard work.”
The work has shown and will continue to show with the Lions. While, Mejia will be missed in the middle of the G-Braves order, you couldn’t be more delighted to for an individual to get a great opportunity like this.
“Use your imagination. Imagine the life you want to live, and live it!” –Jack Ramsey.