By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
Bill Mendick had just finished high school and the family business was calling. Well, more like his father was calling.
Why would you pay someone else to work when you have perfectly capable help right in the family?
So in 1947, fresh out of Franklin High School, Bill went behind the counter at Mendick’s Market on Joseph Avenue in Rochester. His father, A. Mendick (just a first initial, Bill says), taught him how to be a meat-cutter.
“I like to tell people I went to Marquette,” Bill says. “They say, ‘That’s pretty impressive. And I say, well, it was the other mar-ket.”
At 88 years old, the longest-tenured Rochester Red Wings fan is sharp as a tack and gleefully telling dad jokes; OK, granddad jokes.
“We were the first food market (in Rochester) to have full air conditioning in the store,” Bill recalls. “That’s how long ago it was.”
Within two years as a meat cutter, he’d become pretty good at his trade, too. In fact, Bill ended up becoming the teacher, helping clients learn how to trim meat or cook a roast perfectly.
“We were a block and a half from Red Wings ballpark,” he said. “The ball players wives would come in every two days because they had to have something to eat for the ball players when they came home after the game. I had to teach them how to cook.
“The ball players all had big appetites — like my grandson.”
That’s sort of how he became a Red Wings fan. The proximity from work to the stadium was very convenient. And he became hooked. For 70 years Bill Mendick has owned season tickets to Rochester’s beloved baseball team.
The lifelong Rochesterian has a seen a lot of home runs, a lot stolen bases, a lot of strikeouts and a great many Red Wings victories. He doesn’t need a record book to tell him about the greats that passed through town; he was there to see them.
But no game or series will match this weekend. That grandson he mentioned earlier, the one with the big appetite? He’s coming home to play for the first time as a professional ball player.
Danny Mendick is in his fifth season in the Chicago White Sox organization and he figures to be in the lineup — probably in the middle infield, although he has had spot duty at third base and in left field — for the Charlotte Knights Friday night, Saturday and Sunday.
“Am I proud? I’m proud as a peacock,” his grandfather said. “My son, Billy, said he needs 50 seats for all the people he invited (to Friday’s game).”
Danny Mendick has systematically advanced through the White Sox system. Drafted in the 22nd round in 2015 after his senior season at UMass-Lowell, he spent that summer in rookie ball in the Arizona League.
The 2011 Pittsford Mendon graduate, who spent two years at Monroe Community College, played most of 2016 in the full-season Class A South Atlantic League, split 2017 between Advance Class A Winston-Salem in the Carolina League and Double-A Birmingham in the Southern League before playing all of 2018 in Birmingham.
He has been at Triple-A Charlotte since the end of spring training and is proving once again that he is ready for the challenge of the next level.
Through 61 games (before Thursday night) he was hitting .265 with 39 runs, 8 home runs, 34 RBI and a .765 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging).
He’s tied for fourth in the International League in stolen bases (13 for 15), tied for 10th in walks (32), tied for 12th in runs (39) and tied for 19th in hits (59).
“You ask anybody in the White Sox organization and they’ll all tell you he just works hard,” his grandfather said.
That’s a family trait, apparently. Bill left the market to go into construction and development in 1959. He and his partners built several apartment communities throughout the Rochester area. And Bill is still going to the properties on a daily basis, making sure everything is running smoothly.
“Do I need to work? No. Do I want to work? Yes,” he said. “I suggest everyone should work as long as you can. A human being is like an automobile. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
The way Danny Mendick has been playing, he’ll be using those baseball skills for quite some time.
“We’re all very proud of him,” Bill said. “I’m just delighted that he loves the game.”
That, too, seems to be a family trait passed down from his grandfather.