Our story begins at Texas A&M University. It’s the birthplace of the Power Stache, the signature facial hair of former River Bandits and current JetHawks pitcher Daniel Mengden. After high school, Mengden looked at other colleges but decided to become an Aggie.
“As I got older, I narrowed it down to schools in the state. Some schools out of state were interested and I said no because I wanted to stay closer to home,” Mengden said. “A&M called me and I came on a visit and fell in love with the place. The coaches were awesome, I thought it would be a good place to play, and it was only an hour and a half away from home so my parents could come watch me play and it was way less expensive than Rice or TCU.”
It was during his freshman year that the facial hair phenomenon began.
“Back at A&M, our head coach only allows us to grow facial hair if he grows it. He grew a mustache so all he allowed us to grow was a mustache. One day one of my friends back home said why don’t you grow some crazy facial hair,” Mengden said. “I was like well I can’t grow anything but a mustache. He was like well grow a crazy Rollie Fingers mustache or something like that. I was like fine so I did it and fans at A&M loved it.”
During his first two seasons, The Power Stache, as Mengden was dubbed by Aggies’ fans, split time between pitching and working as a position player.
“I was a catcher and pitch my freshman year and I had never caught before. My sophomore year, I pitched on Fridays and Saturdays which switched during the season depending on the day and other starters,” Mengden said. “Then I would throw on Friday and either DH or play right field Saturday and Sunday.”
The schedule was grueling rotating between workouts for both pitchers and position players.
“It was very taxing but my coaches were awesome about it if I ever needed any time off,” Mengden said. “I would go early with the hitters and then meet up with the pitchers to throw. Then I would practice with the position players for 30 minutes and then go run and work on signs with the pitchers. Then I’d go back to the hitters at BP before going back to right field and shagging when I was done. It was hectic but I love being able to do both and love playing the game.”
After his sophomore year, Mengden had another unique playing opportunity presented to him.
“One day I got a call from my coach at A&M and he said Team USA wants you to play for them. It was one of the happiest days of my life,” Mengden said. “It was awesome to go try out for the team and making the team was just extraordinary and overwhelming. I was so happy to have the chance to put on our nation’s colors and play baseball for them.”
Mengden traveled with Team USA to Japan to play against some of the world’s top athletes.
“Their fans are awesome. There were at least 5,000 to 6,000 people that came to watch the games.”
He even came away with new fans.
“It was funny because the way I pitch is kind of funky with my windup and delivery. I had at least five or six guys come up to me and tell me they love my pitching because it reminded them of a Japanese pitcher.”
Despite loving all of the playing time of the field, Mengden’s body had a hard time keeping up heading into his junior year.
“We had a bunch of juco guys come in and my coach thought it would be better for me to just pitch, be a mentor for the younger guys and stay healthy during the season,” Mengden said. “Because that’s how I got banged up my sophomore year. I ended up having a stress fracture in my back.”
Team doctors told Mengden he could either sit out four to eight weeks and miss all of SEC play and be ready for playoffs or pitch through the pain.
“I told the doctors I would pitch through the pain and made it through the whole year. It was pretty painful but it never got worse than it was,” Mengden said. “However, I had to change the way I pitched. One thing that sucks about it is my velo dropped from about 91-94 to 86-90 because I couldn’t really push off with my bag leg and my landing leg would hurt so I couldn’t put as much force behind it. I’ve turned into more of a finesse pitcher and have had to locate the ball a lot better.”
Having a stress fracture in his back hurt his chances to be drafted but Mengden had already decided to go back to A&M for his senior year if it didn’t work out.
“I was with my family on draft day and I was going into it with the stress fracture. A lot of teams said they might not pick me because their doctors said I was a liability in a way,” Mengden said. “I wasn’t too worried about it and then the Astros called me with their pick in the fourth round. It can’t get better than that to hopefully play for the hometown team one day. They took a chance and hopefully one day it will work out.”
Now that Mengden had signed to play professional baseball, there was one thing left to decide: should he bring back the Power Stache?
“A bunch of people asked me if I was going to bring it back for pro ball and I said I wasn’t sure,” Mengden said. “I just decided I’ll do it again so it might just be my baseball thing.”
And he’s putting that mustache to use by joining fellow mustachioed baseballer Ralston Cash to raise awareness for the Ralston Cash Foundation, a charity started by Cash to raise money and awareness for children who have lost parents to cancer.
“He contacted me about my mustache and told me about his foundation. I told him I wanted to hop on board and help as much as I can,” Mengden said. “We were talking about it about a week ago and I’m happy to be on board.”
So what’s next for Mengden? Continuing to follow the dream.
“It’s a blessing. I work as hard as I can every day. Now that I’m here I have to work harder to take every step up and hopefully one day make it up to the major leagues.”