Although it is almost a prerequisite the summer before senior year in high school, Jake Alexander isn’t about to take it easy.
“My friends, they all go out and go to the lake or go to the river and do all that kind of stuff, but, I mean, I love playing baseball so that’s not a big deal,” Alexander said.
So off he goes.
The Mountain Pointe senior to be hopes to build off a solid junior season, in which he ranked among the top four in all offensive categories, playing for Team Arizona in the Sunbelt Classic in Oklahoma.
The 10-team event starts today and goes through Wednesday with eight states, including two from Oklahoma, being represented along with a team from Canada.
“About two weeks ago the coach called me and said, ‘We need a right-handed-batting outfielder’ and just asked me to play. And I said, ‘Yeah, sure why not,’” Alexander said.
For the switch-hitting senior, being named to the Sunbelt Classic cements Alexander as one of the top returning players in 2014 in a state known as a breeding ground for MLB talent.
“He’s a freak of a talent in baseball,” Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. “He’s a switch-hitting power guy. There’s not too many switch-hitters, but he’s a switch hitter who has power from both sides of the plate.”
Alexander led the team in RBIs (34), tied for the lead in home runs (7), tied for the lead in triples (3), ranked second in hits (40), average (.404), on-base percentage (.504), and third in runs scored.
He should make a similar impact on Team Arizona. The state has a history of performing well in Oklahoma, especially recently as it has finished lower than third just once since 2007 including bringing back a title in 2008.
This year’s squad, talent wise, is every bit as good as the other teams that have made the trek to Oklahoma.
“When you think of the talent in Arizona there’s a ton of it,” said Buck, Alexander’s coach at Mountain Pointe. “I kind of think Arizona’s a bit above everybody else.”
But Alexander hasn’t been relying on talent alone. While his friends are sleeping in or otherwise taking it easy, Alexander is usually either lifting weights or practicing.
Playing well in Oklahoma would set the tone for his senior year and show the discerning eyes in the stands that Alexander could be one of next year’s top prospects.
“He’ll be playing in front of tons of scouts,” Buck said. “He’ll be playing against some of the best talent in the U.S. and when you’re playing against those talents, obviously, people are going to see you and it definitely helps him for that opportunity to go on.”
The pressure to perform, especially in front of college and pro scouts against high-level competition, is immense but he’s not letting it faze him.
His goal is simple.
“Not strike out, that’s my goal … and just put the ball in play every time,” Alexander said.
His mindset is equally straightforward. There’s an adage that says hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Luckily for Alexander, he seemingly has both.
“You gotta kind of have that attitude: ‘I mean these kids are talented but they’re not going to outwork you’,” Alexander said. “If I put in a lot of work to be where I am then they’re not going to outwork me or outplay me.”
• Eric Smith is a junior journalism major at Arizona State. He is a summer intern at the AFN.