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Mark Melancon thrives off the moments that send his adrenaline into overdrive, and that’s not just when the fate of a game rests on his shoulders.
The new San Francisco Giants closer spends his life away from baseball seeking out adventures that include swimming with sharks, mountain biking, hot air ballooning and trying to keep his drones away from a crash landing.
His thrill-seeking nature is part of his identity. Given the qualities that comprise most of baseball’s closers, that’s no surprise.
If history teaches us anything, it shows that to be successful in this position, you have to take a walk on the wild side.
Question: Where did your adventurous side come from?
Answer: My dad was a big part of it. When I was 7 he took me bungee jumping. I wasn’t heavy enough so he put weights around my ankles to help me get heavy enough on the scale. That was one of the first adventurous things that I did. I had to be 75 pounds. I think I was 71 pounds.
Q: You and your wife, Mary Catherine, started a collective bucket list of thrill-seeking excursions. That’s a pretty cool way to keep track of the things you both want to do.
A: For my wedding present, a calligrapher wrote out our bucket list and she framed it. We have it hanging in our bathroom. It’s a piece of art, but it’s also a goal and a checklist we’ve been trying to knock off. It was created when we started dating and we haven’t added to it because it’s framed, but we’ll get through this one and we’ll start another one for sure.
Q: How did you come up with the items on there?
A: It was about 10 years ago when we created it. We’ve been married for seven. So it’s funny to think about if I were to re-do one, there would be a lot of other and different stuff on there. But I’m glad we have this one because we can always build on the second one.
Q: What’s the last thing you were able to check off?
A: We did a blimp ride last season. We’ve gotten about half the list finished.
Q: One of the items on there was diving with Great White Sharks in New Zealand. What was the most nerve-wracking part of that?
A: We’re in a cage, but the craziest part was the current was making us sway back and forth. The cage has these one-by-one foot holes in it. They’re not small holes, so if that current takes you and you go and put your arm out, you don’t want to put your arm through the hole. You kind of have to brace yourself. I did that once and that’s what scared me the most. The sharks do not take their eyes off you. They’re coming in, bumping up against the cage. Just being in there watching them, knowing that they always have their eyes on you is kind of scary in a sense.
Q: So when you’re not swimming with sharks, you’ve been known to have a pretty good handle on drones. Have you mastered the steering aspect yet?
A: I love drones. I love any type of technology that’s out there. I don’t know if mastered is the right word. I think I’ve gone through about six or seven of them. One’s in the ocean. I wouldn’t say mastered by any means but at least I can get it up in the air.
Q: When you’re not looking for your next adventure, you spend a lot of time researching various aspects of sports science. Where did you draw that interest?
A: Just seeing what teams are doing and how much that one percent – if you can add that to your success, it’s going to be huge. Everybody at this level is top notch. It’s hard to separate yourself. Maybe there’s a tool, a piece of technology out there that can give you some information that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. I just love learning. I love getting better. It creates so many conversations and allows you to learn about yourself.
Q: Learning and teaching go hand-in-hand. You’ve been a teacher of the game to people all across the world. Now you have an opportunity to be a bearer of knowledge to a young group of relievers. How do you approach teaching your peers?
A: I really feel that I have a lot to give and a lot of experience that people wouldn’t want to have, really. I’ve learned from a lot of mistakes and it’s great.
Q: Is there anyone in the bullpen that reminds you of yourself when you were starting out?
A: I see a few guys that I think I’ll be able to help a lot. Derek Law is one in particular. He’s already got the makings to have a great cutter. He’s got some deception to him. I think just dialing in on a few things will really help him.
Q: There’s been a great deal made about the importance of your role for the Giants and why the team went after you so hard in free agency. How do you channel the pressure brought on by this role into what you hope to accomplish this season?
A: Well gosh, that’s what I signed here for. That’s what I wanted. We have such a great team and if I can help fill a gap, that’s going to be great.
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