His baseball journey has thrust him into two foreign countries, with culture and language barriers, but none of that prepared Ernesto Mejia for the adjustments he's needed to make since his son was born in September.
Sleep disruption and extra worries have been part of Mejia's life all season, but he is adjusting -- if only by focusing on the positive.
"It's definitely new, having a baby, a new (family) member, but it's awesome," the 31-year-old Mejia told Kyodo News in a recent interview. "It's worth it even if I don't sleep the best or if I don't sleep as many hours as I need. No matter what, no matter how bad I do or how good I do in the game, when I get home, I just forget about everything."
His son wasn't the only arrival last September, when Seibu offered the 2014 Pacific League home run champ a hefty three-year contract extension. He came to camp as fit as ever and started the season well, if inconsistently, as he balanced parenting surprises with the daily need to stay ahead of the game.
"I talk with coach (Hideki) Hashigami and Shima-san (batting coach Shigenobu Shima), and sometimes when we talk about batting, they say just relax and be patient with the umpires, be patient with the pitch, try to choose a good pitch to hit and stay middle (of the field)," Mejia said.
"I'm a great hitter when I stay middle. When I start pulling, that's when everything falls apart. So hopefully, we keep working on it. It's not been the best two months, but we've still got another four months to go. And that's what I'm going to work for."
"A fastball, when you're ahead in the count? It's not coming. When you don't expect it, that's when they throw it. So apparently catchers read your mind here. The adjustment is just like anywhere, see the ball, stay middle and react well, not think so much. It's easy to say, but it's hard."
Ten years ago, when Mejia was in the low minors, dealing with language and cultural barriers in Rome, Georgia, and Danville, Virginia, it might have been hard to imagine him winding up in Japan. Although dealing with yet another language has not been easy, Japan is now where he wants to be.
"The language was hardest, food was pretty much good. Moving was hard, you don't have a car. I learned a language within a couple of years, three or four years. You know, having that kind of experience and then coming to Japan, and starting over? It's not easy. I'm doing that now. I'm in the process of learning, getting some Japanese words, getting used to a new culture. I'm learning words, but I don't know enough to put them together."
He may lack the language skills needed to express his appreciation for the Lions' welcome in Japanese, but the gratitude rings out like a fastball hitting the meat of the barrel.
"It's a great feeling," he said about his current deal with Seibu. "My career has had some ups and downs, surgeries and I've been fighting for a long time, waiting for an opportunity like this, getting a contract and staying longer with a team. The Lions for me are really special. The team believed in me since the beginning. They've had a lot of patience. They treated me great here since the beginning. It's awesome."
"You think you're going somewhere but you end up somewhere else. As long as you keep patient with good plans and doing a lot of work consistently with a lot of discipline, you're going to end up doing good. So I've been working hard, and being disciplined. Especially in Japan, it's a lot of work."
"I think I'm going to end my career here in Japan. That's what I hope. I'm going to work hard for that, maybe 38 or 39-years-old. Who knows? Hopefully in Japan and with the Lions."
Mejia gives much of the credit for who he is, and where he is, to his father. Also named Ernesto Antonio Mejia, although he is known by his middle name, the elder Mejia imparted not only a love of baseball, but a work ethic.
"He was everything," the younger Mejia said. "He taught me how things should be, how you should do things the right way. He took me to the ballpark every day. We always did it without my looking to become a professional player, a guy with a lot of money. No it was just a family thing. I think he saw something that I liked and he wanted to help me out and have fun."
"He told me, 'No matter what you do in life, do it right. All jobs are decent jobs. It doesn't matter if you're picking up trash or you are the president of the country, you've got to do it right. Everybody's the same.'"
"My dad is 72 years old. He's old school. He's a veterinarian, he was a college teacher for 30 years. I had a lot of education in my house. My mom was a high school teacher for 25 years. Education was important, the first thing. With my grammar, I couldn't make a mistake. If I did something, I'd get punched (laughs). No he never did. He'd give me a look, 'Er, are you sure that's right?'"
"Those times, I'll never forget, and that's why I'm here right now, because of my family."