In 2013, as a sophomore at Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria, Luis Mendoza batted .393 with 10 doubles and 20 RBI.
A first and third baseman, he was selected by Prospectwire Baseball as one of the top prospects in the class of 2015, and he played in the 2013 All-American games at Cal State Fullerton the following summer. On the field, he's an excellent player.
Off the field, Mendoza is an excellent person.
Luis was nominated by his coach, Eric Gardner, and will be one of six finalists for a $5,000 Fulton Homes Character Counts scholarship that will be awarded in May.
"Luis exemplifies character on and off the baseball field weekly as he is always looking out for the interests of others," Gardner wrote.
For instance, over the winter break, he led a group of 30 baseball players to help with a food drive at Christ's Church of the Valley.
"We helped out and picked boxes up for needy families that we're going to help out throughout the Valley," Mendoza said. "And all we did was help out with carrying the boxes onto the carts, then stacking them in good, neat boxes."
Mendoza said in all there were nearly 10,000 boxes of food collected, organized and stacked, but at the same time didn't seem to think it was really that big of a deal.
"What else could I have been doing that day," he said. "Something else? I feel like that was way more important than whatever I had to do. If it was baseball, if it was just staying home -- I feel like that helped me more than it helped everyone else."
Mendoza, a high school kid, took time out of his day to help others and feels like he benefited more than anyone else. So selfish.
"I feel like it's just something about me," he said of his desire to help. "I don't feel the need to do something; it just comes to me and I have to perform and do the little things."
But that's the thing for people like Luis, who will constantly look for ways to help others: What they do seems like no big deal, even when it really is.
"On the field, you help out and you let others know if they did things right or if they did things wrong," Mendoza said. "But off the field, you need to help out people in their school and help them out just walking to class. Asking them how they're doing, asking them if they need anything. Same goes with helping around the house and helping out with your family."
Along with his on-field exploits and off-field good deeds, Luis maintains a 3.8 GPA while taking honors courses. According to his coach, Mendoza is always the first one to arrive at practice and the last one to leave, and is always asking coaches and teammates if they need help. He was also recently named the school's student-athlete of the month.
"It is not out of the ordinary to find Luis and his dad down at the baseball field on the weekends not only working on his game, but also cleaning up our facility or repairing something at the baseball field," Gardner said. "He truly is a student of character and represents Sunrise Mountain very well!"
And true to form, the day after being interviewed for this story, Mendoza sent an email asking to make sure it is pointed out that he wanted to thank his coach for nominating him as well as for all the hard work he's put in to make the baseball program great over the years.
It's not unusual for a post-interview request to be made, but it's not often the request is made to make sure someone else is recognized.
After all, this story is supposed to be about Luis Mendoza.
When he's not playing baseball or out helping others, Mendoza said he spends much of his time at home relaxing with his family. His mother and father are very supportive, he says, and his two sisters have taught him plenty about being respectful and calm with others.
They've all helped to make him the well-rounded person he is today.
"It's not about just being a baseball player," he said. "Walking around school people see you and say, ‘Oh you're a baseball player.'
"But I mean, I like people to see me and say, ‘Oh that guy's really nice' or ‘That guy, I want to be his friend' and things like that."
If you know a young athlete with character you can nominate them at www.fultoncharacter.com.