Norco junior Menelik Israel was invited to play for the Philippines for the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers (Courtesy Photo)

Norco junior Menelik Israel has a passion for engineering to go along with his baseball talents. During his sophomore year, Israel committed to Duke with an academic and athletic scholarship.

Prepping for his junior season in baseball began last summer where he worked on his agility, range of motion, and breathing. His developed skills helped the Cougars to a 9-3 overall record before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the end of high school athletic events.

By the premature end of their season, Norco baseball was ranked 85th in California.

“It was supposed to be my year too, I started off great,” Israel said. “Over the summer just helped me mature to tear it up this season.”

Last season, Israel helped the Cougars to a 20-12 overall record. They came in second in the Big VIII League and reached the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship game.

“I think I batted 600 to 650 in the playoffs, we had a blast during the playoffs. It was one of the best games I had in high school,” Israel said. “Towards the beginning of the season, as a team, we weren’t blending in, but towards the end, we kind of blended in well.”

Israel mentioned how playing with talented teammates allowed him to improve, he got that with Norco along with his travel ball team Kings National. Through travel ball, Israel competed in several states on the east coast including Georgia and Florida.

“Surround yourself with better guys, better players than yourself to compete not only just the opposing team but also your team,” he said. “Always do something better than the next guy.”

Playing travel ball not only allowed him to compete with some of the top talent in the nation, but also to meet professional athletes. During one trip, he was able to attend a Philadelphia Phillies vs Atlanta Braves game and met Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper.

“We met Harper, we met the teammates, we met the Braves team,” Israel said. “It was a blast.”

Although he was born in the United States, Israel was raised in the Philippines. He is bilingual, knowing how to speak English and Tagalong. Israel was invited to play for the Philippines for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers which was postponed to 2021.

For Israel, being a student athlete means setting and meeting high expectations. Another priority is to give his supporters a sense of pride.

“Not doing it for yourself, but doing it for your family is the most important thing about being a student athlete,” he said. “Doing what I can to help the family and making the people that are helping in my circle proud.”

This year, Israel is taking AP Physics, AP U.S. History, Honors Math, and Honors Spanish 3. Israel desires to be either a mechanical or a robotics engineer.

“Growing up, I really liked building stuff and learning about mechanics and different physics,” he said. “I love science and knew physics was a combination of math and science, that’s why I love it so much.”

During his freshman and sophomore year, Israel competed in the 400m, 200m, 100m, 4x400m and the 4x100m in track and field. He plans to become a sprinter again during his senior year.

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