“Four schools in five years was where he was supposed to be,” said Shannon Merced, Robbie Merced’s mother.
Robbie is one of Kickapoo High School’s most accomplished hitters. Now he is back in Springfield. After stints at Missouri State, Scott Community College, and Division 1 Lipscomb, Merced is now at Central Methodist. “I’ve got to say, this one’s probably my favorite, ” said Robbie.
As the Heart of America Athletic Conference Tournament starts here in the Ozarks at US Baseball Park, he’s ranked in the top four in the NAIA in home runs and RBIs. It’s a chance to host the team dinner at his house, and for his family to see how far he’s come in person. “I would say in the last year he has physically matured tremendously,” said Shannon. “He’s put on a lot of weight. He’s gotten a lot stronger. There is a huge difference. I told him, ‘I think you’re in the perfect storm right now.'”
“It’s been nice having the family to be able to come watch,” added Robbie.
For this family, baseball is in their blood. Robbie’s father Orlando, and great-grandfather Bill Virdon both played in the majors. “My dad and granddad have both put me on to baseball since I was a kid,” said Robbie. That’s kind of where I grew the love for the game. Being able to play, I see my mom and my grandpa are my two biggest fans that come to the games.”
Virdon passed away recently. “To see him pass, it was definitely sad,” said Robbie. “But we know he’s in a better place. He left his legacy. So hopefully I can continue his name.”
Robbie may be getting his chance to be just like them very soon. He has one year left of college eligibility. But he is also in the MLB draft portal and could be selected in July.
Whatever his future holds, he’s still drawing on the lessons he learned at Kickapoo.
Just like one of his former teammates who also has big league aspirations.
“Mason Auer said in an interview how (Kickapoo head coach Jason) Howser emphasizes being a good teammate to everybody,” said Robbie. “It doesn’t matter who. Showing respect to your opponents. I think that’s one thing that I have been able to keep going with.”
And his personal cheering section, his family, will be there too. “As a parent, kind of letting them go and figure that out on their own is amazing,” said Shannon. “And I’m beyond proud of him.”