Ventura, California —— It’s never a bad thing to have options in life, and boy, does Elijah Alexander have options.
His options present themselves on the football field at Ventura College: juke left, juke right, sprint, stop, jump, change direction — it’s almost like a video game as he decides where best to carve a path to the end zone.
They present themselves for him on the baseball field, too, where Alexander deploys a special skill set for the Pirates: hit a ball in the gap and run forever, lay down a bunt and beat it out, or draw a walk and then steal second and third.
And see, that’s the thing about Elijah Alexander: his options aren’t just tied to his athleticism. Sure, he’ll outrun you, but he’s also mature enough to out-think you, too. If you’re an opposing pitcher, all of that is bad. If you’re watching him play, though, it’s all good—not many two-sport athletes show patience and maturity at the plate like Alexander, let alone step into the batter’s box with a plan in mind.
“You see so many guys just hacking at the ball, trying to pull it all the way, but my high school coaches always taught me to look [middle-opposite field],” the left-handed hitting outfielder told Baseball Census earlier this week after a Ventura College game against Pasadena City College. “Look middle-oppo, and if you miss, you’re going to miss in the right-center field gap. That put me in that mindset, and [my high school coaches] really stuck that in my mind, and now I’ve been able to carry that with me into college now.”
That sounds simple, maybe, but it’s been a revelation for the athlete, and it’s a notable departure from what most football-turned-baseball guys think about when they get up to the plate. After all, it’s one thing to be able to hit the ball hard, or to run fast, but another thing entirely to understand when to do those things. You can’t play baseball the same way you play football—the harder you press on the diamond, the more likely you are to fail—and thus it’s remarkable Alexander has such a nuanced feel for this game so soon in his career.
That feel shows up in every aspect of his play, which has the Camarillo product hitting .367/.488/.490 over his first 98 at-bats this spring with eight stolen bases, six doubles, two home runs, and a remarkable 17 walks against just 12 strikeouts. Those numbers are the statistical proof of Alexander’s options—hit or walk, speed or power, your choice—but they also represent a professional-style approach in the freshman slugger.
That he is content enough to be walked, and smart enough to understand the situational hitting opportunities that present themselves in every at-bat, is itself a revelation. All his middle-oppo talk is more than just words; he can slap a ground ball to the left side and beat it out just as frequently as he can put a ball in the right-center field gap and run for days. And unlike so many super-athletes fresh off the football field eager to hit the ball and show off their speed, the freshman outfielder is just fine with letting the game come to him. Work deep counts? Hit with two strikes? Make an adjustment at the plate?
“You see some good pitchers at this level, and it reminds you that you can’t get too down, and you can’t get too high,” he explained about what’s led to his early success at Ventura College. “I know what pitch I want to hit, and if I don’t get it, I don’t mind taking. You get three strikes for a reason. All you need is one. Be patient, wait for your pitch, and once you get it, take off.”
He sounds like a true professional, which sort of brings us to the coming decision Elijah Alexander must make. His athleticism and talent—in both sports—ought to provide him an opportunity at the Division I level, be it this fall or after another year at Ventura College. He’s already speaking to several schools about a baseball future, including Loyola Marymount University and the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, but in the short-term, at least, there’s a chance the outfielder may continue to be a two-sport star.
“That’s kind of the plan right now, I’ll see if I can stick to that,” Alexander said, laughing about how hectic a schedule he’s set to have in the next couple years. “But long term, I’m honestly going to try to pursue baseball. If you’re not 6’3” and 220 lbs. in football, it’s kind of hard for the little guy to succeed. Granted, there are still a bunch of guys that have been successful, but I think my best shot is to play baseball.”
Football is a tool, without question, and if it gets Alexander a scholarship at the four-year level, all the better. But in another few years, as the outfielder irons out his game on the diamond and further improves that tantalizing speed/power combination, he might get a legitimate shot at playing professional baseball. Just imagine what he’ll be like on a baseball field when he can finally commit to the sport full-time.
“I was just talking to [Ventura College assistant coach Steven] Hardesty about that the other day,” Alexander said, smiling. “I’ve been going at these two sports fifty-fifty, and once I start going at something 100 percent, whichever way I go, the sky’s the limit for me.”
Watch Alexander play and it’s easy to agree—and soon, all of his options will push him to a decision. Hit or walk? Slug a double or lay down a bunt? Football or baseball?
As a throwaway, at the end of our interview, I asked Elijah what was left for him to do this spring. He leads the team in hitting by fifty points, in slugging by seventy, and in on-base percentage by one hundred. He’s shown off exactly what he can do on the field and then some—so does he just play out the rest of the way?
“My next thing is stolen bases,” he answered without skipping a beat. “I worked through a bad hamstring for a little bit there, so my stolen base numbers aren’t where I want them. I’m going to try to get after it these next few weeks and go from there.”
Three days later at Ventura’s next home game against Taft College, Alexander swiped third base off Cougars left-handed pitcher Nick O’Connor in a key late-game situation, just like he said he’d do.
How fitting: just another option to choose from in Elijah Alexander’s supremely athletic tool belt.
To read our scouting report on Ventura College outfielder Elijah Alexander, please click here.
To visit Elijah Alexander’s player page for photos, video, and GIFs, please click here.
In this Ventura College / Elijah Alexander baseball feature:
Ventura College | Cuesta College | Taft College | Pasadena City College | Western State Conference | Elijah Alexander
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