At the end of 2020, Jason Alexander was considering a career change.
The Windsor native and former standout pitcher for Cardinal Newman and Santa Rosa Junior College was fired by the Los Angeles Angels organization in June, one of many minor league victims of the pandemic, and began posting his CV on Indeed.com.
He figured that as an undrafted 27-year-old, who had spent the past three-plus years scouring the minors and posting unimpressive numbers in his few Triple-A stints, his chances of making it at The Show were slim to nothing.
“I think when COVID came along and the Angels released me, I kind of thought baseball was over,” Alexander, 29, said Friday.
He was considering becoming a coach, probably at the high school level, until he received a phone call just before the start of the 2021 minor league season. It was the Miami Marlins calling with an offer.
“Between all the job searches, that’s when the Marlins contacted me,” Alexander said. “As soon as I got the phone call, that flame ignited within me again. Everything just reinvigorated.
Last Wednesday, just over a year after that signing, Alexander made his MLB debut, going seven solid innings in a starting spot for the Milwaukee Brewers. He was the first Brewers pitcher since 2017 to record a quality start on his debut, earning him a second start on Tuesday, when he pitched five innings of one-run pitch.
It was unclear on Wednesday whether Alexander would be sent back to the minors or stay with the Brewers. The team had called him in part out of necessity as they faced a tired rotation that had also been hampered by injuries. With their rotation expected to return to full strength soon, Alexander could bide his time in Triple-A until his next opportunity in MLB.
But if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the last week of his professional career has provided Alexander with plenty of motivation.
“I understand why athletes don’t retire when people say they should retire because it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if you’re lucky enough to have more than a only once, I think you want to cherish it as much as you can,” he said. “I still have a lot to show and prove and I’m thrilled about it and can’t wait to work on it again. harder.”
Alexander is the youngest of four brothers and joins second-youngest Scott — who pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently in the San Francisco Giants farm system — in logging MLB playing time.
Jason, like his brothers, was a star during his time playing in Sonoma County. A graduate of Cardinal Newman in 2011, he helped the Cardinals win two North Bay League titles, earned pitcher of the year honors as a senior, and was a two-time conference first-team pitcher. and All-American as a sophomore at SRJC.
He turned that success into a scholarship to Long Beach State, a powerhouse NCAA Division I program, but his time there was cut short when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. and underwent Tommy John surgery after just six starts. He was just 21 when he went under the knife and missed the entire 2015 season before transferring to Menlo College, an NAIA program, where he received an honorable mention All-American in 2017.
At 24, Alexander went undrafted in the 2017 MLB Draft, but signed a minor league contract with the Angels and pitched mostly rookie pitch for that first season. He spent most of the next two seasons bouncing between High-A to Triple-A levels, but finished the 2019 season as a fixed rotation guy for the Angels’ Triple-A team in Salt Lake City, Utah.
While he nearly hung up his cleats after being released the following summer, he applied the lessons he had learned in his last four seasons with the minors towards his new opportunity with the Marlins in 2021 and launched well enough to get noticed by the Brewers, who signed him to a minor league contract last offseason.
It was a brutal and unforgiving journey for Alexander at times, but one that paid off last week. He was told he was being called up over the weekend, joined the team on Sunday and was officially called up on Tuesday evening.
He said the reality of what he accomplished last Wednesday didn’t set in until he was seated in the dugout after his outing was over.
“I could see the Cubs uniforms, the stands and the stadium and how close I was to the field,” he recalled. “It was like, ‘This isn’t real. Where am I right now?’
Alexander joined a growing list of MLB members with Sonoma County ties that includes players like Andrew Vaughn (Chicago White Sox), Spencer Torkelson (Detroit Tigers) and Anthony Bender (Miami Marlins) and coaches like Jason Lane (Milwaukee Brewers), Brandon Hyde (Baltimore Orioles), Tony Arnerich (Seattle Mariners) and Tim Cossins (Baltimore Orioles).
SRJC baseball head coach Damon Neidlinger noted the mental toughness it took for Alexander to stay true to the sport despite so much adversity. He said it takes a special player with a genuine passion for the game to persevere through what Alexander has done, when so many players would have chosen the easier route of quitting and looking for their next opportunity.
“I know he’s not happy,” Neidlinger said. “He’s worked hard throughout this journey, and it’s toughened him up, it’s toughened him up, he’s learned a lot and I think you can tell how tough this journey is, in some ways, that’s tough. is a blessing in disguise because it mentally prepared him to handle it and it showed on Wednesday.
Yesou can contact editor Gus Morris at 707-304-9372 or [email protected] On Twitter @JustGusPD.