Shortstop officially a Seminole
By Jeff Odom
Gaither shortstop Oscar Mercado signed a letter of intent Nov. 16 to continue his baseball career at Florida State University.
“It feels good, like a lot of hard work has paid off for me,” said Mercado, whose .370 average and 29 RBI helped the Cowboys to their second straight district title last season. “I’m thankful to the program. This has been my life for the last four years and means a lot to me.”
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Mercado, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 middle infielder by ESPN for the 2013 MLB Draft, was pressed into service for Gaither as a freshman.
“The guy that was supposed to be our shortstop had transferred in and got in some trouble, and I had to dismiss him from the team and Oscar was the backup,” said Cowboys coach Frank Permuy. “He was nervous, but he took everything in stride, did whatever we told him, batted ninth the whole year and got himself on base a lot and played defense a lot.”
Mercado worked on his swing in Gaither’s batting cages every day during the offseason while also helping fellow teammates improve their game.
“I tried to do my best even with a lot of superstars on the team,” Mercado said. “I would do my best to try and help out, be that guy. Just a little bit of help towards (my teammates).”
Permuy said someone of Mercado’s ability and leadership doesn’t come around very often.
“I don’t think we could have won those two (district) championships these last two years without someone like a leader by example,” Permuy said. “If he’s not the best leader, he’s one of two I’ve ever had, and I think that’s why he’s gained the respect of so many people.”
Permuy compared Mercado to two-time World Series champion and Gaither alum Kevin Cash, who also attended FSU and spent time catching with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays among others.
“We’re hoping Oscar can be our third guy (to go professional) and be one of the guys that we retire his number and put it on the outfield fence,” Permuy said.
Mercado will likely be taken in the first round of the MLB draft, which will give him the option to forgo college and jump right the professional ranks.
“When the time comes, I’ll make that decision,” Mercado said. “It should be a fun experience, but right now this is my only choice, and hopefully we will have a good season with Gaither and hopefully we’ll make it far.”
If he does go to FSU, academics shouldn’t be a problem as Mercado has a 5.0 weighted grade point average.