Royals catcher/outfielder MJ Melendez (left) works on his hitting with his father, Mervyl, at Westminster Christian School in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 19, 2023. (Luke Slabaugh)

No image is linked to baseball as much as one of a father and son playing catch.

MJ Melendez, entering his second year with the Kansas City Royals, has lived that scene almost every day this offseason. He's been training with his father, Mervyl, a 26-year college coaching veteran.

"I don't think I'd be here in the same spot I am today without him," the junior Melendez said. "It's been everything to me, the sacrifices that he and my mom made for me growing up, traveling to all my tournaments. ... It helped me and molded me into the player I am today."

Mervyl most recently served as the skipper at Florida International University, leading the Panthers from 2017-22. These days, he's happy to throw batting practice, run defensive drills and hit fly balls with a fungo bat to MJ at his prep school alma mater, Westminster Christian School in Miami, Fla.

"I just want to be there, be of assistance," Mervyl said. "See the things he can improve on, whether it's the hitting, his concentration levels when he's doing strength and conditioning, whatever it is. I just want to be supportive, be there for him throughout his training sessions, so that he is ready to embark on a new season every year."

Mervyl said his wife, Aixa, plays a huge role in aiding MJ with his finances. He emphasized how special it is to give their son the tools to succeed at the highest level.

"[It's] very special," Mervyl said. "You have a 24-year-old that actually has a really good relationship with his parents, that trusts us, that believes that we are a team. Just me and my wife, we want to be a part of the team."

Melendez's routine this winter consisted of a whole-grain waffle for breakfast; working out with his trainer from his high school days, John McCoy; hitting batting practice, and alternating daily between catching and outfield work. He focused on explosiveness, agility and fly ball routes.

Mixed in those daily disciplines was a good ol' game of catch -- something that the Melendez father-son duo will cherish for a long time.

"Until I retire," MJ said.

"Forever," Mervyl said. "I have no issues. ... I don't think that I'll ever get to the point that my arm is hanging and I can't throw."


Inside the offseason training of the Royals' MJ Melendez