TAMPA — It’s all come full circle for Miguel Menendez.
For while the new Jesuit High School baseball coach was born just a half-mile away from his new campus, he doesn’t remember it. He and his family moved to Key West when he was 6 months old. He grew up a happy kid living in the Florida Keys, never knowing what the future held.
Baseball was his passion. He played for a Key West High School team that still holds the state record for most titles. He played catcher and first base for Key West but “came home” for college at the University of Tampa.
“I always had it in the back of my mind that I would end up in Tampa,” Menendez said when addressing the media after being named Jesuit’s head baseball coach last week. “I love Tampa, I have family here, and I can’t wait to get started.”
At UT, Menendez helped the school to the 1998 national championship.
With a wife and three kids, he said he was happy being a coach back in Key West — he’d been head coach since 2006 — even though the road trips could get a little tiring. He took the Conchs to several regional finals, but when he heard about an opening at Jesuit, it was time to come back home.
Jesuit won the state title last season, despite missing several members of its team due to school violations. After the season, Richie Warren, who led the team for eight years and won 206 games, left Jesuit to coach at Berkeley Prep. With a state title to defend and almost its entire lineup returning next year, the Jesuit job was very enticing.
Menendez said he hasn’t had much of a chance to meet with players, but he knows the legacy he is inheriting.
“I always dreamt about coming back to Tampa,” Menendez said. “My wife, Lori, and the kids will stay in Key West for the rest of the year and then we will be back together again. It’s a great time.”
Menendez will be a part of the Jesuit faculty as well, teaching social studies, world history and economics. He said he can’t wait to be a part of the close-knit Jesuit community.
Athletic Director Terry Rupp said that he received many applicants once the job was announced, but that he was comfortable with Menendez.
“Number one, the program at Key West is similar to ours,” Rupp said. “He had head coaching experience at a great school and we knew he was a great person for the job. He is committed to Jesuit.”
Menendez said that, while Jesuit might be defending state champs, he might tweak things a bit.
“We will be very aggressive, we’ll run, we’ll pitch,” Menendez said. “I can be hard nosed if I have to be. I crave discipline, but we’ll be good.”
Menendez said he hasn’t spoken to Warren since taking the position, but said he wanted to talk before the start of the season. The schedules have not been released, but Berkeley often plays Jesuit, so a meeting is likely.
Menendez isn’t thinking about that yet. He’s settling in, waiting for his family to join him in Tampa, and thinking about taking over a state champion.
“This is as good as it gets,” he said. “I can’t wait to be a part of this great school.”