Luis Isai Mendoza Jr., it seems, was born to play baseball.
The Sylmar resident, who just turned 11, is a standout pitcher and third baseman for the North Valley Titans little league travel team in Granada Hills. And now he has an opportunity to take his talents to, well, not South Beach but rather Orlando, FL.
Mendoza has been selected as one of 240 youths named All-American by the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) to participate in the organization’s 2017 10U All-American Games tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex beginning on Sunday, Aug. 6. He is on one of two teams representing the Far West region.
He was eligible because he was still age 10 when he was chosen.
The tournament, which will field teams of players ranging from ages 9-14, runs through Aug.12.
Titans Coach Robert Luna describes Mendoza as a “gifted” talent.
“Without a doubt Luis is definitely one of the best players I’ve ever seen,” Luna said. “Part of it is he’s blessed with natural ability, some things I cannot teach: he’s got a big, strong arm, and powerful hips to drive the ball and pitch the ball. Great hand-eye coordination.
“I’ve been working with Luis for three years now. He’s always been a big boy. The problem is, he didn’t know how to use his size for his advantage. He didn’t really know how to use his body to produce power. This year Luis has been able to put things together. His velocity is up, into the low 60s. A switch-hitter, he has some power. He’s a very humble kid, a very nice demeanor. We are working on him being a little more aggressive when he’s on the field.”
Luna said the USSSA holds several tryouts all over the country. The Far West Region covers four states — California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. He will compete against players from the Atlantic, Great Lakes, Central, Midwest Northeast, Northwest and Southeast regions.
“This selection process is the ‘who’s who’ of travel team baseball all over the country,” Luna said. “There are two teams in each region, and about 10 regions. There are probably a couple of thousand kids who try out, and Luis was one of the kids selected.”
Mendoza’s parents — mother Araceli is an independent food vendor and father Luis Sr. works for a company that makes and sells large inflatable jumpers — both played softball and baseball. Araceli, speaking through an interpreter, said they soon realized their son had a natural inclination toward the sport.
“The first toys he picked up were a bat and a ball without anyone telling him anything,” Araceli said. “Since birth he’s always loved the game. However, at age seven is when we really began to see his natural ability and talent, that he was something special.”
Mendoza said his favorite player is Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, which is why he currently favors third base over pitching. He hopes to be good enough one day to play in the Major Leagues.
Right now he is interested to see how he compares to other kids.
“I was excited (when chosen), but also kinda nervous. I’ll see kids from like around the world, how they play and everything,” Mendoza said.
At the tournament Mendoza said he wants to “play hard, not give up on myself. Maybe do something great. Not let myself down. I will have fun. It’s all about having fun.”
For those who would like to help the Mendoza family with the cost of traveling to the Florida tournament, visit