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Thursday, April 20, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 137

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Finally home

Senior shortstop Aaron Melebeck takes long road to get to UH

By Anna Sivadasan
Daily Cougar Staff

Like many high school seniors, UH shortstop Aaron Melebeck had some tough decisions to make when he graduated from Clear Brook High School in 1996.

But his decisions weren't limited to what college to attend or what major to choose.


Cougar shortstop Aaron Melebeck and the 13th-ranked Cougars return to action against conference rival Memphis this weekend at Cougar Field.

Barry Watson/The Daily Cougar

The UH senior was drafted out of Clear Brook, and although he signed with UH out of high school, his aspirations to play in the majors -- sooner rather than later -- led him to Galveston Junior College.

"It was tough for me," Melebeck said. "But I changed my mind and ended up going to (junior college) in Galveston.

"In junior college, you get a chance to get drafted every year, where in Division I, you'd have to wait three years before you even get a shot. So that's what made my decision for me."

In the span of two years, during high school and junior college, he was drafted twice. After graduation, the Atlanta Braves picked him in the 22nd round, and in 1997, after his first season in Galveston, the Kansas City Royals selected him in the 39th round.

"It was my decision to go to junior college," Melebeck said. "Sometimes I do regret it and wish I came here for all four years because the competition I would have faced would have helped me so much."

But he finally arrived at UH for the start of the 1999 season and was the Cougars' opening day shortstop against Sam Houston State.

He ended up starting 54 games last season, but his sixth game as a Cougar against a certain Big 12 school in Austin was the game he remembers most because of a swing that almost never happened.

UH was trailing Texas by four runs in the ninth inning, but rallied to tie the game and send it into extra innings. In the top of the 12th, Melebeck was at the plate with two runners on base.

"That was the biggest highlight for me," he said. "I was up there, and the squeeze play was on, but I think I missed the sign or something.

"But luckily, their coach came out to talk to their pitcher, and UH head baseball coach (Rayner) Noble calls me and catcher (Jarrod) Bitter over and says we have the squeeze play on and I said I didn't know that. And that's when he just said, I'll take it off,' and Go ahead and swing away."

Melebeck did just that with the next pitch, sending it over the left-field wall for a three-run homer, giving the Cougars the win over UT.

This season, the senior has batted everywhere from fifth to eighth -- and more recently second -- in the UH batting order and is hitting at a .327 clip, needing only five more hits to surpass his 1999 hit total of 56 hits.

"I've tried to not think about my hitting because then you start thinking too much," Melebeck said. "I've just worked at it. Even on our days off, I try to go out there and hit. I guess when you see the results, it's worth it."

And the results have definitely been there.

In addition to his solid batting average, he has an on-base percentage of .385 and is hitting .411 with runners on base and .400 with runners in scoring position.

But perhaps the most important numbers for Melebeck and the UH baseball team will come at the end of the season, when wins and losses are counted and the national championship is decided in Omaha, Neb. 

"I played with Brett Smith (of Rice) in Galveston, and Rice played in the World Series last year, and he just said it was an awesome experience with the whole atmosphere of the Series.

"And being a senior, that's the place we want to be at the end of this season."
 

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