Melancon was born in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and attended Golden High School, where he lettered all four years in baseball and basketball and three times in football. He helped the team capture the Colorado 4A State Championship in baseball. Melancon was named to the All-State Team twice in his career, as well as twice in football and once in basketball.
And he graduated as a member of the National Honor Society.
In 2004, Melancon set an Arizona freshman record, pitching in 29 games as he helped the Wildcats to the College World Series.
In 2005, he set a single-season record with 11 saves.
Melancon tends to live on the edge. He sprained his left ankle while skydiving during his freshman year at the University of Arizona.
In the summer of 2005, when Mark was in Japan to play in the Friendship Series as a member of Team USA, he hopped on a three-wheel grounds-crew vehicle and took it for a joy ride around the Osaka Dome.
And he voiced the urge to fly in an F-16 fighter jet to Arizona coach Andy Lopez. The Davis-Monahan Air Force Base is not far from the school. (Will Kimmey-Baseball America-2/27/2006)
While rehabbing from Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season, Melancon made the best use of his time, going back to the University of Arizona and completing 21 credit hours to earn his college degree.
"For the first three or four months, I was with a trainer in Arizona who I actually lived with," Mark said. "It was a full-out rehab. I was immersed in rehab and that's why it went great. I went to school and rehabbed."
Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations, Mark Newman said, "There is no more diligent rehabber than Mark Melancon. He's as good as anybody we've ever had."
- In 2006, Mark signed with the Yankees (see Transactions below).
- After taking part in instructional league in the fall of 2007, he went to a six-week session at the Yankees' academy in the Dominican Republic. He then moved in with Dominican teammate Jairo Heredia so he could continue to work out at the facility and learn about the country.
“How many opportunities do you get to have an experience like that?” Melancon said. “I was down there playing baseball, but I also was learning about the culture and the people. My arm felt good. I wanted to get in as many innings as I could.”
None of that surprised Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. “He has a curiosity,” Oppenheimer said. “He wants to learn, and not just about baseball.”
Oppenheimer laughed when he talked about the five-month rehab program Melancon went through in Tampa in 2007. Melancon took off on a weekend to visit Key West, sleeping in his car on a bridge, and fishing from the roadside. He took in a NASCAR race at Daytona. He made three trips to Cape Canaveral to watch space missions launch. He also was a sponge around the Yankee big leaguers.
“Mariano (Rivera) talks about the questions Mark asked, the way he wanted to learn the game and understand it,” Oppenheimer said. “it made an impression on the big leaguers. They respect him.”
Melancon always has been that way, said Todd Severtson, who coached Melancon on youth teams and at Golden High in Colorado. Severtson remembers taking youth teams to tournaments around the United States. “Mark would be going to museums and zoos,” he said. “The other guys were horsing around, like most kids, but Mark wanted to explore other things. He was mature beyond his background.
“When he was 10 years old, we were playing in a national tournament in Iowa,” Severtson said. “I went to the mound and he looks up and says, ‘Coach, what are you doing out here?’ He was in control of things.” (Tracy Tingolsby-Baseball America-11/14/2011)
Following is a story about Melancon's first spring with the Yankees. He was miles away from his Colorado home and needing wheels.
"I didn't have a car and my roommate didn't have a car," he said. "So we started looking through the classifieds at used cars. I thought, 'Shoot, let's rent a car for a day and go check out some of these cars.' The first place we went had this old beat-up van. It had holes in the bottom. You could see the street while you're driving. There were holes in the roof, too." It was love at first sight.
"It was a classic," he said. "We bought this thing for $350 and used it to go everywhere for a couple of weeks. It was the getaway car for all the guys in the hotel." When spring training ended, he donated the van to Cars for Kids. (Richard Justice-MLB.com-12/15/2011)
In 2007, Baseball America rated Melancon as 9th-best prospect in the Yankees organization. And he was at #11 in the spring of 2008. They had him back at #9 in the winter before 2009 spring training. But he was down to #15 in the spring of 2010.
Mark has a great attitude, is a real plus in the clubhouse and has a tireless work ethic and coachability. His makeup is outstanding. A big part of who he is mentally is how he can steadfastly focus on both immediate and long-term goals with incredible intensity.
Melancon has an uncanny ability to focus. All those positive traits were instilled in him at a very early age while growing up in Colorado—just part of his upbringing he says.
"It definitely comes from my parents," Mark said. "We're a blue collar family and you make sure you appreciate everything you have; you don't take anything for granted. I believe that God has a plan."
He picked up some Spanish-language skills.
- Melancon is a weight room warrior.
His strong leadership presence can be contagious.
Mark's wife, Mary Catherine, was induced into labor, delivering their first child on September 27, 2011. It was a girl, and they named her Brooklyn Marie.
- Early in the 2013 season, Melancon dubbed the Pirates' relievers the "Shark Tank" on Twitter. Mark came up with the name while diving with great white sharks in southern New Zealand—an item on the pitcher and his wife's bucket list. A younger shark hadn't been named yet, so a diver they were with said, "Why don't we just name it after you?"
And the pitcher brought the idea back to Pittsburgh and his cohorts, as a two-ton shark named "Melancon" swims halfway across the world.
"I'm good with whatever they like," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the nickname. "They seem to like the name, and they've kind of bought into that mentality. So I'm good with it."
The blond crewcut Melancon has is slightly less hyper, fans may have noticed, than Jason Grilli, trailing those long dark locks. Grilli would punctuate saves with punches in the air—then undercuts into catcher Russell Martin's midsection. Melancon is a handshake guy.
"I don't know if personality matters. It's all about getting three outs," said Melancon. "I'm not trying to show anybody up, or make myself look bigger than the team. I'm one to just bulldog, and go after it."
It works, said manager Clint Hurdle. Grilli was an open book. Melancon? Can't judge the book by its cover.
"He's very humble and very competitive," Hurdle said of Melancon. "He's got that edge, don't let his outward behavior fool you. He's every bit as competitive as Grilli. There are different ways of showing it."
Don't think that Melancon is thoroughly vanilla, without streaks of Neapolitan. After all, he's the guy who inspired the Pittsburgh bullpen's Shark Tank culture. And while his exit strategy may be docile, not so his entrance. He comes through the gates to "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC, whose "Hells Bells" for years introduced Trevor Hoffman.
"Hoffman and Rivera never beat their chests, either," said Hurdle, likening Melancon's personality to those of the two greats. "They came in to pretty good music, but that's where [the extracurriculars] stopped."
Melancon broke into the Majors with the 2009-10 Yankees, sitting in their bullpen alongside Mariano Rivera.
"The big thing I got from Mo," Melancon remembered, "was to just go do your job, and don't be the spotlight."
Nick Hundley and Melancon are close friends dating back to their time at Arizona when they advanced to the College World Series together in 2004. They were in each other's weddings and Hundley accompanied Melancon to New Zealand on the trip that garnered Melancon the nickname "Mark the Shark."
"I've always loved him as a guy, I've always loved him as a competitor, I'd want him on my team any day," Hundley said. "It's just fun to face him because it's a challenge. When you face one of the best in the game, who is also one of your good friends—it's special."
Mark has been the model of stability at an unstable position during his time in Pittsburgh. He's been reliable on the mound, stubborn in both his routine and his refusal to allow runs. In 2016, for the third time in four years, he's an All-Star.
Melancon is already looking forward to his favorite part of the Midsummer Classic experience: sitting on the field with his wife, Mary Catherine, and kids—Brooklyn, Ella Grace and Jack David—during the Home Run Derby.
"The last two times I've done this, that has been the standout moment each time—something where my kids will be able to look back and go, 'We were there for that. We don't really remember it, but it was fun,'" Melancon said. "Something special that you can't really pay to do that. It's not a vacation. It's not an experience that you can just go out and do at any time." (Berry - MLB.com - 7/5/2016)
March 2017: Melancon was listed among six pitchers on the Team USA designated pitcher pool, meaning that the pair was eligible to play in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
The Giants want to make sure you haven't missed the news with a new 2017 ad campaign centered around their brand-new closer, Melancon, literally closing things. He takes on Brandon Crawford's trunk when he's not looking, locks mascot Lou Seal out of the building and snaps shut the lid to Buster Posey's pretzels. As a fan of pretzels, I can tell you: You don't ever close another person's snacks. (Clair - mlb.com - 3/28/2017)
January 5, 2017: Since it's the offseason, perhaps you've had a moment to check out Mark Melancon's latest SYFY thriller: "Sharkhorse Park." While he did get the approval of the television network known for making cult movies like "Sharnado," the flick hasn't been made … yet. So he will just have to hang out with the sheep until then.
During the Giants reliever's downtime, he was spotted posing for a picture with the fluffiest sheep you will lay your eyes on—and the animal seemed to be raising his fist or offering a high-five or even perhaps raising his hand, we don't quite know. What we do know is that it seems like Melancon's time in New Zealand is extra special. ( J Kleinschmidt - MLB.com - January 5, 2018)
Mark has never shown any fear on the mound. He has been one of the most consistent relievers in baseball over 2008-2018. Relief pitchers must be able to avoid being rattled by the pressure of the situation and execute their pitches in the highest-leverage parts of the game. For Melancon, these in-game situations are relatively tame compared to his offseason activities, which he describes in his own Twitter bio: "Been known to dive with Great Whites and walk with Cheetahs!"
Melancon does indeed spend his time away from baseball seeking out the kinds of thrills that many would not dare attempt. He credits his sense of adventure to his father, who took him bungee jumping when he was just 7 years old—with the help of some ankle weights. At 7 years old he did not meet the weight requirements of the bungee jump, so he and his father tied weights to his legs. He met the required weight and had a blast jumping!
For his wedding, Mark's wife and he put together a bucket list of 60 items. They were younger at the time so whatever they spit out went on the list. They have done about 45 of the items.
One example is, "We got to go down to Bolivia and bike down the world's 'most dangerous road.' That's literally what it's called," Melancon said. "It's 42 miles long. There is pavement at the beginning and it turns to gravel. You're going down a one-lane road on a mountain cliff. There is no guard rail. There are cars coming up around corners that you don't see. It's wild. But what a cool experience to be in a different country and do that." (Mintz & Shusterman - mlb.com - 8/28/2018)
It's not uncommon for pitchers to meet up with their opposition before games and swap trade secrets: pitch grips, deliveries and ballplayer wisdom are all part of the secret language that hurlers share among themselves. But a pitcher swapping tips with the opposition's groundskeeper?
That's because Melancon moonlights with his very own turf installation company, Diamond Turf.
"Arizona's grounds crew was great," Melancon said. "I've spent a lot of time with them. Toronto last year, spent a lot of time in Texas. You know, every field's done a little bit different. You can learn from each of those grounds crews that deal with that type of field. Obviously, they're trying to replicate something for 81 games that's perfect to a natural product," Melancon added. "And so they're very picky on the ball bounce and stuff like that. Depending on the infill that you use, yeah, it will bounce differently."
Landscaping wasn't a family business, and he didn't grow up with a deep obsession for turf and turf supplies. No, Melancon's mid-career extracurriculars came about because of two things.
First, Melancon asked his sister, Michelle, and brother-in-law, Gerardo, to move closer to his family on the west coast of Florida from their home in Colorado. While Gerardo could transfer his job, it would have involved an extremely long commute and employers that paid his previous rate were also scarce in the nearby area. Melancon wanted to help out since he was the reason for them picking up and moving their lives in the first place.
Second, Melancon had a putting green installed in his backyard and he wasn't happy with the results. So, with the kind of gusto that leads to garage bands and plans to remodel basements into swanky hangout areas, the two leapt into it. The only difference: They followed through on their dream.
"Gerardo and I just said, 'Let's do this,'" Melancon said. "This is something we're attracted to and we'll figure it out. And fortunately, he was on board and excited about it. So was I. We dove right in and started learning and went from there." And Diamond Turf was born.
The company quickly grew to about 20 members strong. Along with roughly 15 laborers, the main office features Mark, Michelle, Gerardo, an office administrator named Debbie Hertenstein and, oh yeah, another Major Leaguer in J.B. Shuck, who now runs sales. Shuck, who's married to Melancon's wife's sister, had signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals. But when COVID-19 ended the Minor League season, Shuck joined up with Diamond Turf full-time.
"Those two guys," Melancon said about his two brothers by marriage, "work ethic off the charts and just quality people." Since then, they've installed lawns—some complete with trampolines in them—intricate design and logo work and, of course, putting greens. (Clair - mlb.com - 4/8/2021)
Mark truly loves his "other" job in landscaping. Even during the season, he is constantly working, using Diamond Turf business as a nice release from the non-stop stress of baseball. Though he's mostly involved in an admin role, working on payroll and material orders, he's perhaps working more than even his co-workers enjoy.
"I'm heavily involved, but I'm involved in places that I don't have to be," Melancon jokes. "But I want to be and I enjoy being [involved, even though] things could still get done without me. It's the times when I'm in the hotel on the road that I can spend a lot of time on it. Fortunately, I have a good team in place that can take care of those things."
Still, even for someone who loves turf and works in turf and even espouses the environmental benefits that turf can provide, he still prefers to play on natural grass.
"From a professional standpoint, I think natural grass is always better," Melancon said. "I don't really care. It's more the infielders and outfielders—I'll go with whatever they want. Playing in Texas in the playoffs last year was great. I thought that surface was awesome. To be honest, you didn't even really know it was artificial."
In the end, even though Melancon is a pitcher, you wouldn't know it from the way he talks about his side gig. He sounds perfectly at home running a turf installation company.
"Wanting the best for people, that's been our motto," Melancon said. "We want to do the best job that we can do for people. We're there to make money, obviously, but we want to leave the customer with great customer service and quality, longevity. We specialize in putting greens because that's what's enjoyable, that's what gets us excited. And we feel like, if we can master the putting green side, we can really do anything because those are the hardest things. And we really feel like we produce one of the best putting greens out there." (Clair - mlb.com - 4/8/2021)
- July 2021: Melancon was chosen to represent the Padres in the All-Star Game.
June 2006: Mark signed with the Yankees after they chose him in the 9th round, out of the University of Arizona. His bonus was a hefty $600,000. He was signed by scouts Andy Stankowicz and Jeff Patterson.
July 31, 2010: The Astros sent Lance Berkman to the Yankees, acquiring Melancon and INF Jimmy Paredes.
December 14, 2011: The Red Sox sent SS Jed Lowrie and P Kyle Weiland to the Astros, acquiring Melancon.
December 26, 2012: The Red Sox traded RHP Mark Melancon, RHP Stolmy Pimentel, INF Ivan De Jesus, and 1B/OF Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh; acquiring RHP Joel Hanrahan and INF Brock Holt.
January 17, 2014: Mark and the Pirates avoided salary arbitration by agreeing on a $2.6 million contract for 2014.
January 16, 2015: Melancon and the Pirates again avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $5.4 million salary for 2015.
January 15, 2016: The Pirates and Melancon again avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year contract for $9.6 million.
July 30, 2016: The Pirates traded Melancon to the Nationals for LHPs Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn.
November 3, 2016: Mark elected free agency.
December 5, 2016: Melancon signed with the Giants, four years for $62 million.
July 31, 2019: The Giants traded Melancon to the Braves for RHP Dan Winkler and RHP Tristan Beck.
Oct 28, 2020: Mark elected free agency.
Feb 12, 2021: The Padres agreed with 35-year-old right-hander Mark Melancon on a one-year deal.
Nov 5, 2021: Melancon became a free agent. The closer declined his end of a $5 million mutual contract option for 2022.
- Dec. 1, 2021: The Diamondbacks agreed to two-year deal with Melancon worth $14 million. The deal also includes a mutual option for the 2024 season.