I had the pleasure to talk with Dakota Mekkes recently for about half an hour. As you might expect, since the Cubs pipeline seems class-exemplified, he was an ideal interview. As we were talking quicker than I can write, so I might have missed a few things, but I learned quite a bit more than this synopsis will show. Enjoy my discussion.
TH: Good afternoon, and thanks for the opportunity to talk for a few minutes.
DM: Not a problem.
TH: A couple of Sundays ago, David Bote hit a pinch grand slam and became an instant Twitter sensation. How fun was that for you guys that have played as his teammate?
DM: It was wonderful. As a teammates, as a person, he’s all that and more. You won’t find a better person anywhere. He deserves the recognition.
TH: You’re from Jenison, Michigan. What can you tell us about your hometown?
DM: It’s about 10 miles from Grand Rapids. Usually, that’s where I say I’m from. It’s a bit of a suburb of a mid-sized city.
TH: At some point, you had a chance to talk with Spartans basketball coach Tom Izzo. Could you tell us about that?
DM: I was on a recruiting visit as a “recruited walk-on,” and talking with him was a part of the opportunity. We talked for about 45 minutes on the importance of contributing as a walk-on, with the possibility of a scholarship or better. Every team is going to have a star or two, but the remainder of the team makes the chemistry of the team what it becomes.
TH: It sounds like a life-shifting discussion.
DM: Yeah, it really set up my time at Michigan State.
TH: When the Cubs drafted you, you had eligibility left in East Lansing. Aside from the signing bonus, why did you choose to sign with the Cubs?
DM: I loved my time at MSU. I wasn’t even thinking about the draft going into my junior year, as I’d only pitched 12 innings in college coming into that season, so I hadn’t selected an advisor yet. However, as the season progressed, I started talking with more scouts, and went with an advisor. As the draft came, he started talking with the Cubs in the seventh round. When we started talking between the seventh round and the tenth round, he strongly recommended I consider the Cubs. He said they’re as good of an organization as there is. And it was rather easy from there.
TH: It’s nice to hear the Cubs have a good reputation like that with the representatives. Do you have any “coaching moments” from your time as a pro that stick out in your memory?
DM: I had just left the Arizona League, and arrived in Eugene before a series at home. Manager Jesus Feliciano called a team meeting within half an hour of me getting into the locker room, and started reaming us out. A few players had stolen pillows from the motel in Vancouver. He was making perfectly well clear that that isn’t how the Cubs do things. And I hadn’t even been on the road trip. I wasn’t guilty, but it was perfectly clear that it wasn’t acceptable.
TH: That’s a nice nugget. I often hear stories about Anderson Tavares, the pitching coach in Myrtle Beach. Anything specific with him?
DM: Nothing specific comes to mind, but he’s the happiest person ever. He’s always in a good mood, and the pitchers love their time with him. Terry Clark (in Double-A Tennessee) was occasionally good for a joke. “Son, I don’t have anything to say, but I figured I’d better come out anyway. Go get em.”
TH: Cool. People tracking “the pipelines” are often about velocity readings or WHIP and strikeouts per nine. How much of it is about getting your work in?
DH: Quite a bit of it, really. I had an outing recently in New Orleans where my fastball wasn’t there. I usually use my fastball about 75 percent of the time. I had to figure out other ways to get outs on the fly. 28 pitches in one inning. Brutal on the numbers, but I’ll learn from it.
TH: The pitching in the system seems obscenely deep. Especially for a “bottom of the barrel system.”
DM: (Chuckles.) Yeah, we had quite a kick out of that Baseball America comment. We’re really proud of the pitching in the organization, and it’s going to be rather a surprise to some people soon.
TH: MLB will soon have its “Players Weekend” where players can choose their moniker. What would yours be in 2019?
DM: I was thinking about that for a bit. With the help of the international players, it would probably be Big Head. I wear a size eight hat, and they call me Cabeza Grande.
TH: Talking about international talent, there’s a bit of a divide with the “bat flip” still. Dominicans tend to “play the game differently” than native USA types.
DM: Yeah, they enjoy themselves on the field, and are fun to hang around with.
TH: And so many people get upset with the expressions of happiness.
DM: Yeah, kinda sad.
TH: On the way out, I’ve noted a few times that you would have made perfect sense as a call-up in other seasons, but with the roster crunch, next year might make more sense.
DM: Not a problem. Depth is a good thing, and it will happen when the time is right.
TH: Here’s to a spring training with the big kids, and a debut in about June.
DM: Sounds great.
TH: Thanks for the time, and keep getting ahead of the hitters.
DM: Not a problem.
Many thanks to Emily Cabrera of BHSC Global Management for her assistance in setting up this interview. And here’s some video of Mekkes pitching for Iowa this year: