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Originally published Monday, April 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM

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Lake Washington's Theo Alexander poised to take next step in baseball

Scouts flock to see power-hitting center fielder, who could be selected in first five rounds of June's amateur draft.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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KIRKLAND — For Theo Alexander, everything came together during one at-bat last summer.

The Lake Washington High School center fielder stepped into the batter's box at the prestigious Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., to face a power pitcher from California. Alexander doesn't remember his name, but he remembers the first pitch. It was clocked at 97 mph.

It was the first time Alexander had faced a pitch that fast. He didn't swing. The pitcher mixed in a couple of curveballs, but Alexander wanted to hit the heat.

When he got another fastball, he smacked a line drive that landed just in front of the right fielder. That solid single gave him a sense of relief, and confidence.

He said he knew then that he could "hit anything" and channeled that into every batting-practice session leading up to his senior season.

"I realized I had to really work to achieve what I was trying to achieve," said Alexander, wearing a white and purple Lake Washington hat with a pair of sunglasses perched upside down on the bill.

Alexander has blossomed into one of the state's top prospects, playing with focus and confidence that has produced numbers, and moments, that continue to surprise Kangaroos coach Derek Bingham.

"He'll do something in practice or in a game that makes your jaw drop," Bingham said. "We had a round of batting practice here a week ago. I was just sitting up here, making the lineup, watching him hit and, out of 25 balls, he probably hit 18 of them out. It was amazing. It was something I've never seen before."

Through 15 games this season, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound standout was hitting .525 with an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) of 1.738, 11 extra-base hits (four home runs), 22 runs batted in and 22 runs. Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara made a trip to his school last week. Scouts have been frequent visitors to Lake Washington games, and Alexander keeps giving them reasons to come back.

"If he doesn't go in the top five rounds (of the June MLB draft), I would kind of be surprised," Bingham said. "Nothing would shock me with him. He's as good a physical talent as I've been around in 10 years coaching high-school baseball."

Ask Alexander about his goals, though, and he starts with his teammates. He wants to help the Kangaroos win a KingCo Conference 3A title and a state championship.

Getting him to talk about his desire to be drafted and start playing minor-league ball right away, that takes some time.

"I want to play with the best of the best as soon as possible," he admitted after a little prodding.

An only child raised by a single mother, Alexander has never met his father.

"Never wanted to," he said. "I've just been trying to live my dream playing baseball."

Alexander's mother, Erin, said her son found father figures through coaches and other family members who served as mentors.

"He's been blessed with strong men in his life," Erin said.

But Alexander credits his mother for getting him to this point.

"She is the most important thing in my life," he said. "Without her, I wouldn't be where I am today."

The left-handed hitter started playing when he was 5 and idolized Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr. He continues to wear No. 24. Alexander had a Griffey-esque moment recently, crushing a grand slam in the Kangaroos' come-from-behind victory over Juanita.

"Big stages haven't bothered him," Bingham said. "He's hit well when we've been ahead. He's hit well when we've been behind. He's just been tremendous for us."

Scouts tell the family they project him to be drafted in the first 10 rounds.

"He can get there," Bingham said. "If he doesn't make it, who is going to? I hate to put that kind of pressure on him, but I've been in this league eight years and I don't know if I remember seeing too many guys who are as talented as he is.

"He's the total package."

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com

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