Alirio Melendez is a biomedical scientist specialized in immunopharmacology. He is currently based in the United Kingdom, and grew up in Venezuela. He is an avid traveller, and loves playing sports: he has always had a passion for baseball and softball.
Alirio played baseball often when he was younger; now, though he doesn’t have as much time or energy as he did as a teenager, he plays softball whenever he can, and continues to follow the sport as much as he can–both Major League Baseball and Venezuelan leagues.
Alirio came from a working-class background, the last of nine siblings. He had always wanted to be a doctor: he began his studies in Punto Fijo, then Maracaibo, and was finally accepted into a cultural exchange program to go study in Russia. He spent seven years in Moscow before meeting his wife and following her to the UK, her country of origin. There, he continued his studies and grew his career.
Though he has now lived in the UK for most of his life, Alirio never lost sight of his origins. In 2012, in fact, he spent three years working at the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, where he consulted on biotechnology. One way in which he stayed in touch with his country while he lived in the United Kingdom was baseball: Alirio followed the sport as much as he could, particularly the major Caribbean and Venezuelan leagues. He particularly loves watching the Caribbean Series, which is the highest baseball tournament at a club level in Latin America, featuring the champions of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.
In Venezuela, baseball began in the 1920-30s when oil was discovered in the country. Americans came to collect the natural resource, and they found that there weren’t many sports to follow, except baseball. It grew in popularity across the country, and is now the country’s leading sport. When Alirio was growing up, people would play from the little leagues up through their sixties. Today, a number of great MLB players are from Venezuela: Louis Aparicio was one of the first Latin-Americans and the first Venezuelan to make the MLB Baseball Hall of Fame.
In Alirio’s experience of growing up in a tough neighbourhood, you either played sports and studied or did nothing at all. He and his friends would play almost everyday after school and every single weekend, on a field that their older brothers had leveled out. He looks back on this time fondly, and his love for sports has also encouraged his commitment to fitness that still stands today. When he returns to Venezuela, he still plays softball with the guys that he grew up with. It inspired him to be a good teammate, to work towards something, and to stay out of trouble.