MEL VELASQUEZ - I was born 20 minutes outside of the Chicago Loop in East Chicago, Indiana. If you are interested, you can locate East Chicago on the Chicago XI album cover. I was raised in the culturally rich and diverse steel mill town of East Chicago, Indiana, on the Harbor side. East Chicago was a sociologist's dream. It was an equal mix of African Americans from down south, Ethnic Americans from Eastern and Western Europe, and Latinos primarily from Mexico and Puerto Rico. Almost every one of us was from a blue collar middle class family, where no one was rich or poor. Everyone spoke English well and most of us spoke a second language, including Southern American English, which we considered a language in its own right.
We lived in a city that was too small to segregate, so we learned to love each other, live together, and respect each other's heritage. But, what really brought us together were sports. We played non-stop baseball in the spring and summer, football in the fall, and basketball year-round (remember this is Indiana). I was blessed to play as a kid with and against superb athletes such as: Big Tim Stoddard of the Orioles, Cubs, Padres, and Yankees; UCLA starting guard and two-time NCAA Champion, Pete Trgovich; the great sixth man of the Milwaukee Bucks, Junior Bridgeman; and, on the school playground with the San Antonio Spurs' Coach, Gregg Popovich, to name a few. This is where I learned to compete and gain a passion for sports, especially baseball.
After graduating from East Chicago Washington High School, I went on to Indiana University to complete an undergraduate degree in sociology and then to Purdue University, where I earned a graduate degree in counseling. Professionally, I went on to have an extensive career as a clinical therapist, administrator, and college instructor. I have dedicated my career to working with underserved populations (e.g. under achieving youth, emotionally disabled adults, and marginalized seniors). My greatest career claim to fame was to serve as the Bureau Chief of Mental Health for the city of Chicago, under three Chicago Mayoral Administrations. I was also fortunate to coach baseball from T-ball to High School. Currently, I am a counselor, a high school baseball coach, and a college instructor in Las Vegas, Nevada.