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Benefield: Cardinal Newman grad’s long road to World Series ring


Scott Alexander wasn’t looking for a sign. But a sign came to him anyway.

The former Cardinal Newman and Sonoma State pitcher had just been handed the ball and was walking to take the mound in his first major league outing. It was Sept. 2. He was pitching at home in Kauffman Stadium for the Kansas City Royals. Nobody would have said boo if Alexander had admitted to being nervous.

He was, but just a bit. And then he saw the mound.

“I was noticing the cut of the grass,” he said.

I expected him to say the grass of a major league park was just a shade greener, that the manicured mound was just a smidge more perfect than he was used to in the minors.

Nope.

“I thought, ‘This mound looks identical to the mound I was pitching from in Omaha,’ ” he said. “There’s another deck of people here and there are cameras and that’s it. It’s just baseball.”

Just baseball. Just what Alexander has been working for the majority of this 26 years.

Alexander pitched six innings of baseball in four outings for the Royals this season, enough to whet his appetite for the big leagues, to give him a sign that he can do this, that he belongs.

Even so, Alexander was in Arizona, not New York, when the Royals mobbed each other on the infield of Citi Field in Queens after beating the Mets 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. Alexander didn’t make the Royals’ postseason roster and was pitching in the instructional league in Arizona when his teammates won it all.

“Obviously, I was hoping I could find a spot in there somehow,” he said of the postseason roster. “My role was to be ready if something happened. When I went to Arizona, I took that very seriously. I wasn’t messing around.”

He’s still not. He’s more than humble when talking about getting a diamond-encrusted World Series ring for his role with the Royals this season. He’s almost apologetic.

“It’s crazy that I’ll own it,” he said.

“There are guys that spend 15 years (in the Major Leagues) and I spent 35 days. I know that, I’m aware of that,” he said. “I know I only threw six innings but I still have one. I can’t help the fact that I get one.”

The ring means something different to Alexander than I expect it does to most guys.

“For me, the World Series ring, it will be more of a reflection of the journey I had through the minor leagues,” he said. “It’s more a symbolic ring of my baseball life, even thought I wasn’t part of the team that went to the World Series.”

Alexander was The Press Democrat’s All-Empire Baseball Player of the Year in 2007. He initially went to Pepperdine but later transferred to Sonoma State.

Drafted in the sixth round in 2010, the 6-foot-2 lefty has had a rough go of it at times. Unexplained shoulder pain led to surgery to remove scar tissue. The following season it was a torn medial collateral ligament that sidelined him.

It was also a blow to his confidence, spending so many months on the training table instead of the mound.

“Every year, there are new kids coming up. I kind of got pushed from a starter to a reliever,” he said.

The ring will be a reminder, he said.

“It’s a reminder of those times, kind of questioning ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’” he said.

But now that Alexander has had a taste of life in the majors, he wants more.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “Even the plane flights, the hotels — everything about it was so much fun.”

And he got to hang out with fellow Sonoma County guy and newly-minted Royal, Jonny Gomes, a guy who just secured his second World Series ring.

Gomes, acquired Aug. 31 from the Atlanta Braves , played only 12 games with the Royals and was not on the active playoff roster. Still, it was Gomes who was handed the mic at the team’s victory rally in Kansas City and stole the show. (YouTube it).

“All the hype is real,” Alexander said of Gomes. “He’s a great guy. He’s always the first one there. There’s a reason why he’s in the playoffs every year. There is a reason why he had the mic.”

Alexander has had a different grind from Gomes — a guy dubbed “The Grinder” by teammates.

When Alexander gets his World Series ring on opening day next season, it will be both a symbol of where he’s been but also a firm reminder of where he wants to go.

“Just being there and knowing what is out there for you as far as financially, as far as a career — if you need more motivation, you are probably doing the wrong thing,” he said.

Alexander is going to take a few weeks off, then start playing catch again. He’ll probably work out at Santa Rosa Junior College or Cardinal Newman.

This time, in his workouts he can call upon the what it feels like in a big league park, what it looks like to stand 60 feet, 6 inches from a guy who is getting paid to smack the leather off the ball.

But he also knows well enough to remind himself, it’s just baseball.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes at “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”