Definitive student/athlete is a natural

BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — I’m not sure when it was, when I asked, but it was after I found out Josh Mehta was a .514 hitter in baseball, worked in a shelter for abused women and children and, except for two Bs in his four years at St. Vincent’s, made straight A’s. And it also might have been after I found out Josh worked in a soup kitchen, was All-Empire in both baseball and football and is the school’s valedictorian. And for all I know it might have been after I learned he is taking five AP courses, works out at a gym two hours every day and helped coach youth football and baseball teams.

Josh Mehta of St. Vincent is an All-Empire performer in both football and baseball. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

All I know is, after a while, I had to ask a question.
“So, when you sleep, is it usually with one eye open?”

Mehta, 18, must have dreams that stretch the bounds of imagination as his waking life stretches the bounds of reality.
His resume was made all the more impressive when Mehta said he spends no more than two hours a day on his homework, and that he doesn’t feel like a hamster on a wheel.

“I have to work hard,” Mehta said, “but I feel a lot of it comes naturally. I am able to break things down. I don’t feel like I struggle.”
Gary Galloway, the school’s head coach in baseball and football, was walking by when he saw Mehta being interviewed.

“He’s (Josh) perfect,” Galloway said. “He is why you coach. He is why I would coach forever. In baseball there are a lot of guys who can hit but not in the No.4 (clean-up) spot. Josh not only can do it, he looks forward to it.”
Due in part to the knuckleheads we see occasionally in pro sports, it is easy to ridicule athletes, their intelligence and their immaturity. Mehta provides a counterweight to that image.

“I have been playing sports since I was 3,” Mehta said. “I became a better student because of the dedication and perseverance needed in sports.”
Mehta got a head start on that dedication and perseverance long before he knew what those words meant. In 1981, his father, Uno, arrived in the United States from India with seven dollars. Now a general manager and vice president of a telecom company, Uno Mehta preached old-school values once commonplace in America: Hard work is the seed from which all good things grow.

“I will never quit at anything,” Mehta said. “No matter the obstacle, I’ll find a way.”
When asked his most memorable moments as an athlete, Mehta The Achiever lowered his voice and with great pain mentioned the 2009 NCS final loss to St. Elizabeth’s and the 2010 NCS semifinal loss to Tomales, both in football. How he responded to it, it’s not a surprise to someone who fills every waking moment.

“I still think about that loss (to Tomales),” Mehta said. “That disappointment has motivated me to be a better baseball player.”
Take this, baseball: Mehta leads the 13-2 Mustangs in batting average, runs scored, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, stolen bases and fielding percentage. He is hitting 186 points above his 2010 batting average.

That he doesn’t have another two months to take it out on more baseball teams is a circumstance beyond his control. Not that he dwells too much on what he can’t control. He has visited 12 college campuses, narrowed to three finalists: Syracuse, Pittsburgh and UC San Diego.

“I’m pretty set on being a lawyer,” said Mehta. “I don’t see anything changing my mind.”
If that does happen, if Josh changes his mind, I want him to call me. I would love to know what it was.
Probably something like: They asked him to solve world hunger. How could he refuse?
For more on North Bay sports, go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.