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Scott Alexander says he’s playing the best baseball of his life. Which is a far cry from where he found himself a year ago — laid out, literally, by a cupcake.

Alexander, a lefty pitcher for the Kansas City Royals who played at Cardinal Newman and later for Sonoma State, had not been feeling well. He was dropping weight like crazy, getting up seven, eight times a night to go to the bathroom and could never seem to drink enough water. He was sore all of the time, lethargic.

Then there was that cupcake.

Alexander was on the road with the Royals’ AAA Omaha Storm Chasers last July when he hit up a popular bakery. One cupcake made him feel so bad he slept for four hours.

Something was clearly not right.

The Royals sent him back to Omaha to get to the bottom of it. Blood tests showed Alexander, then just shy of this 27th birthday, had Type 1 diabetes.

And at that point, it was almost a relief. There was a reason he felt terrible. It had a name. Until that moment, Alexander had no idea why he was tired, why his muscles ached, why he was getting nasty headaches.

“I was kind of obsessing over it,” he said. “I thought, ‘My career is over. My body is giving out.’”

His body wasn’t giving out, it was just rather suddenly saying an emphatic “No,” to a ton of what Alexander was putting in it.

The nightly visits to the loo? It was his body trying to flush glucose from his system because it no longer knew what to do with it. The unquenchable thirst? Same.

“To be told there was a reason for it, it made me think if I was pitching in the major leagues with diabetes that was undiagnosed, it was also kind of reassuring,” he said.

After all, as wretched as he felt, he was still throwing strikes and competing.

“Man, if I get this thing figured out? I think I’m onto something here,” he remembers thinking.

“It just kind of grew from there,” he said.

Did it ever.

Alexander, The Press Democrat’s All-Empire Baseball Player of the Year in 2007 who was taken by the Royals with the 179th pick of the 2010 draft, was called up 10 days into the 2017 season. He has been a solid middle relief guy for a squad that is in the American League Central hunt, just 11/2 games behind the Cleveland Indians and riding a six-game win streak after Monday night’s 5-3 win in 12 innings at Detroit.

He’s got a 2.08 ERA through 39 innings with 33 strikeouts and 17 walks.

“This is the best season I’ve had so far,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun to feel like you are contributing and helping out.”

To call 2017 his best season, especially considering where he was in dealing with his health this time last summer is kind of extraordinary.

But Alexander, who earned a World Series ring in 2015 when the Royals won it all, said it’s really not.

“It took some time getting used to,” he said. “At the same time, it’s not that bad, it just becomes something that you are doing. To be honest, I don’t have an exact science down, I’m just making adjustments as I go along.”

Almost immediately after his diagnosis, he axed alcohol, most sugars and carbohydrates from his diet. No fast food, no pizza, no soda.

Alexander called it a lifestyle change. He also said it’s worked wonders.

“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” he said. “I’m not putting some of those bad things in my body … I started having more energy.”

Not to say it was easy. Those first days and weeks of no sugar and pizza, it was hard to say no. But then his body recalibrated and he no longer craved the bad stuff.

It doesn’t hurt that Alexander’s fiancee, Kristen O’Connor, is a nutritionist.

“She’s probably been the biggest help for me,” he said. “She probably got me in the best direction from the get-go.” Also helpful? The kids with juvenile diabetes whom Alexander talks with through the Royals’ “Strike out diabetes” campaign.

“They know more about it than I do,” he said.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be an adult when it happened,” he said. “Kids that are a lot younger, it’s hard to handle on your own. It’s a lot scarier, a lot more groundbreaking.”

Seems like a pretty good trade — kids get to see a big leaguer who also has to carry an insulin pen and be careful about what he eats and Alexander gets to quiz people who, in most cases, have been dealing with diabetes a lot longer than he has.

“For me, it’s really simple to talk with kids. I’m very happy to do it,” he said.

Of the more than 30 million American who have diabetes, approximately 1.2 million have Type 1 and 40,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Type 1 is marked by the body destroying cells that release insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot absorb sugar to produce energy. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.

Type 2 is typically described as insulin resistance and can be prevented or delayed with exercise, weight management and a healthy diet.

Alexander didn’t know any of this a year ago. He’s still learning. He said he’s treating it kind of like an ongoing experiment. He’s checking out different foods, seeing how they make him feel.

“Every food does something different to a different person,” he said.

But he’s also keenly aware that he can’t be casual. No longer can he just “grab a bit to eat.” Life takes a little more planning ahead these days.

“I’ve had to develop a daily routine: ‘What am I going to eat?’ ‘Where am I going to get my food?’” he said. “It’s stuff I never had to deal with before. Now I have to make sure and plan ahead.”

Alexander said how he deals with it is evolving.

“The stuff I did when I first got (the diagnosis) is different than I’m doing now,” he said. “It’s a process of constantly figuring things out and learning on the fly. That part of learning to adjust has made the baseball so much easier.”

And with his body no longer rejecting almost everything he is putting into it, he’s playing the best baseball of his career.

“I started having more energy all the time,” he said. “It’s ‘Let’s go work out, let’s go do stuff.’ It took off from that point.”

Saying no to cupcakes has never felt so good.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.

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