EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s no longer a secret; perhaps the best player in college baseball in 2022 is from right here in the Sun City.

Texas Longhorns star first baseman Ivan Melendez has been dominant this season; he’s at or near the top of nearly every relevant hitting category.

Melendez wasn’t highly recruited when he graduated from Coronado High School in 2018. Instead he went to Odessa College, where his hard work and determination earned him a spot at Texas. Two years later, Melendez is a superstar with a cult following and a catchy nickname.

He could be El Paso’s next MLB star, but what he’s come to mean for two communities hundreds of miles apart will be the greatest impact of the Hispanic Titanic.

When Melendez walks to the plate for his at-bats at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, the sultry sounds of Vicente Fernandez’s “El Rey,” serenade the ballpark. Melendez chose it to be his walk-up song as an homage to the late Mexican legend last offseason.

It couldn’t be more fitting. When he comes to the plate, everyone knows the Hispanic Titanic has arrived. It’s just a small part of the childhood dream Melendez is living.

“Honestly I wake up and I’m like damn, this is where I wanted to be as a kid and I’m doing it right now,” he told KTSM one day after Texas dispatched Texas Southern in a midweek clash in Austin.

Melendez has become arguably the best player in college baseball in 2022; his numbers are something out of a video game. He heads into the postseason leading the nation in home runs (28) and slugging percentage (.941); he’s second in batting average (.421) and RBI (85).

His 28th home run of the season against Kansas last Friday moved him into a tie with Kyle Russell for the Texas single-season record and he’s a near-lock to be the Big 12’s first Triple Crown winner (leader in batting average, home runs, RBI) since 2009.

Simply put, he’s maybe the top candidate to win the Golden Spikes Award, given each season to the best player in college baseball.

“My job with Ivan is to put him in the three-hole and leave him alone,” said Texas head coach David Pierce. “I think he’s the best hitter in the country and he’s got a chance to win Golden Spikes player of the year. I just want to see him continue to have fun and have great at-bats.”

Melendez burst onto the Big 12 scene a year ago, leading the Longhorns in hitting in a run to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. After the season, he was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 16th round of the 2021 MLB Draft, but chose to come back to Texas, with something to prove in the field.

“I just thought I had a whole lot to get better at. I went a whole year without playing defense, so just gaining that comfort playing on the field, I wanted to do that,” said Melendez.

So far, mission accomplished. In 54 starts at first base this season, he’s committed just one error.

As a child Melendez dreamed of everything he’s achieved: playing at Texas; starring in the College World Series; being a Golden Spikes Award favorite. His work ethic has been second to none and there’s still a long road ahead, but his family has a great perspective

“I get so emotional just because it’s a dream come true for Ivan and all the hard work he’s put in,” said his father, Raul Melendez.

Added his mother, Julie Melendez, “I think it’s surreal. We’re all living this dream to be honest with you. I wanted this for my son.”

if Melendez does indeed win the 2022 Golden Spikes Award for Texas, his name will forever belong in Longhorn lore just like Roger Clemens. But for Ivan and his family, the impact he’s making off the field in El Paso and Austin means more than any on-field accolade.

He signs autographs for kids and adults from all over the country at every game and has given talks to Little League programs in both Austin and El Paso.

“It’s special having that influence on people in your community or back home,” said Melendez. “I think it’s special for them to be able to show their pride and support. I’m thankful for it.”

“He’s bringing communities together,” said his father. “Not only Hispanic, but it’s people from the San Antonio and San Marcos area. People wearing number 17 and Hispanic Titanic shirts from all walks of life. It’s pretty cool.”

As the season winds down, Ivan’s Golden Spikes resume is on the table for everyone to see. However, that’s not what he’s focused on.

“I’d definitely be honored if I did win the award, but we still have a lot of games, a lot of season left, a lot of postseason to be played so I think we’re gonna have a chance to win,” said Melendez.

He got a taste of Omaha last year and he wants to go back for seconds. Even if he doesn’t, what the potential Golden Spikes winner means to the Sun City now, what he could mean in a few years, will be his legacy.

“That’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy in football. Imagine doing that, a local kid from El Paso achieving that,” said his father, barely containing his excitement.

Melendez will no doubt be taken in the 2022 MLB Draft in July and he’ll likely be offered a lucrative signing bonus. But first thing’s first: he’s got the Big 12 tournament this week, starting Wednesday morning in Arlington as Texas battles Oklahoma State at 8 a.m. MT on ESPNU.

Rest assured, the Sun City will be watching.

“Everyone in El Paso is rooting for him. He’s giving a lot of little kids and Latinos hope,” said his mother.