Six years ago, Jenrry Mejia did not own a glove. He did not have a bat. He had no use for a ball.
The tools of his trade were a brush, a piece of cloth and a container of shoe polish. That was all Mejia needed when he left his house in Santo Domingo each morning and walked 30 minutes to the downtown cafe where he made his living.
On an island where baseball is like a religion, Mejia preferred shining shoes for 300 pesos a day, the equivalent of about $8.
Jenrry Mejia may appear to be The Natural reincarnated, but he didn’t start playing ball until he was 15 years old, a mere five years ago. There was no money in baseball when he was kid. He had to shine shoes to make a living.
Mejia grew up in a neighborhood called Herrera, near what was once Santo Domingo’s primary airport. He lived with his parents and his younger brother.
“Mucho pobre” is how Mejia described the area. Very poor.
Mejia started shining shoes when he was 11. He didn’t necessarily enjoy the work, but he took pride in earning money when other kids he knew were picking pockets.
“I didn’t want to steal,” he said.
He may not and maybe should not make the Mets as soon as I want him to — which is right this very minute — but he’ll be earning plenty before long if all goes right with our world (for a change). And when it does, and our good fella is facing, say, the Marlins, I look forward to him delivering a salient message to the first big Fish he sees.