BRADENTON -- For the longest time, Mel Rojas Jr. thought his childhood was as normal as everyone else's.
Didn't every kid have a dad who played professional baseball? Didn't every kid get to tour major-league stadiums and chat with big-league players?
"Everyone kept telling me how cool it was," Rojas Jr. said.
Rojas' dad, Mel, recorded 126 saves in a 10-year career spent with the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers. And Mel Jr. was along for most of the ride.
"I liked the Expos' stadium the best," he said of Olympic Stadium. "I loved the Canadian foods. ... There was one dish, I forgot the name, but it was French fries, gravy and cheese. It was good."
So is Rojas Jr., a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010 now playing center field and batting third for the Bradenton Marauders, the Pirates' high Single-A affiliate.
He went 1-for-4 Monday during their 10-5 loss to the Jupiter Hammerheads at McKechnie Field, putting his average at .272. Rojas Jr. also drove in a run, giving him 22 RBIs this season.
So why is he playing the field instead of following in his father's footsteps from the bullpen to the mound?
"I like to hit," he said.
That's apparent, though Rojas is not a typical No. 3 hitter. He is more of a gap-to-gape table-setter rather than a pure run producer. To wit, he has just two home runs in 239 at-bats, but is tied for first in the Florida State League with seven triples.
"It doesn't matter to me," Rojas Jr. said of his spot in the order. "If I come up with guys on base, I want to drive the ball so they can score. I just want to do my job."
He did it during the first inning Monday, when the Marauders had runners on first and second with no one out in the first inning and Rojas Jr. at the plate. As both runners ran on the pitch, Rojas Jr. grounded a single to right, allowing Gift Ngoepe to score from second and sending Drew Maggi to third.
Maggi later scored on a two-out single by Stefan Welch, which doesn't happen if Rojas Jr. doesn't execute his part of the hit and run.
It's been a good year thus far for Rojas Jr., who hit .246 last year with the Pirates' low Single-A team in West Virginia.
And maybe if things go as planned, he'll be back in big-league stadiums in a few years -- though this time, he'll be playing instead of watching.
"I'm happy with how it's gone so far," he said. "I don't put a lot of pressure on myself just because I'm a third-round pick. I just come to the field every day to work hard and try to get better."