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Windsor native, Cardinal Newman grad Jason Alexander gets his MLB moment with Brewers

Back in late 2020, Jason Alexander was looking at a career change.

The Windsor native and former standout pitcher at Cardinal Newman and Santa Rosa Junior College had been cut by the Los Angeles Angels organization in June, one of many minor league casualties of the pandemic, and had started posting his resume on Indeed.com.

He figured that as an undrafted 27-year-old, who had spent the last three-plus years grinding through the minors and posting some unimpressive numbers in his few stints in Triple-A, his chances of making it to The Show were slim to none.

“I think when COVID happened and the Angels released me, I kind of thought that baseball was done,” said Alexander, 29, on Friday.

He was looking at getting into coaching, probably at the high school level, until he got a phone call just prior to the start of the 2021 minor league season. It was the Miami Marlins calling with an offer.

“In between all the job searching, that’s when the Marlins reached out to me,” Alexander said. “As soon as I got the phone call, that flame sparked in me again. Everything just got reinvigorated.”

Last Wednesday, just over a year since that signing, Alexander made his MLB debut, going seven strong innings in a spot start for the Milwaukee Brewers. He was the first Brewers pitcher since 2017 to record a quality start in his debut, earning him a second start this Tuesday, when he threw five innings of one-run ball.

As of Wednesday, it was unclear if Alexander would be sent back down to the minors or stay up with the Brewers. The team had called him up in part out of necessity as they dealt with a fatigued rotation that had also been hampered by injuries. With their rotation expected to return to full strength soon, Alexander might be biding his time in Triple-A until his next MLB opportunity.

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 this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if you’re fortunate enough to have more than just that one time, I think you want to cherish it as much as you can,” he said. “I still have much more to show and prove and I’m excited for it and I can’t wait to work even harder.”

Alexander is the youngest of four brothers and joins Scott, the second youngest — 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 back in his playing days in Sonoma County. A 2011 graduate of Cardinal Newman, he helped the Cardinals to two North Bay League titles, earned Pitcher of the Year honors as senior and was a two-time First-Team All-Conference pitcher and All-American as a sophomore at SRJC.

He parlayed that success into a scholarship to Long Beach State, a powerhouse NCAA Division I program, but had his time there 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 was an All-American honorable mention in 2017.

At 24, Alexander went undrafted in the 2017 MLB draft but inked a minor league deal with the Angels and pitched mainly in rookie ball for that first season. He spent most of the next two seasons bouncing around the High-A to Triple-A levels but ended the 2019 season as a set 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 over his past four seasons in the minors toward his new opportunity with the Marlins in 2021 and pitched well enough to get noticed by the Brewers, who signed him to a minor league deal this past offseason.

It’s been a brutal and unforgiving journey at times for Alexander, but one that paid off last week. He was informed he was getting called up over the weekend, joined the team on Sunday and was officially called up on Tuesday night.

He said the reality of what he accomplished last Wednesday didn’t set in until he was sitting in the dugout after his outing was over.

“I was seeing the Cubs’ uniforms and the stands and the stadium and just 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 ties to Sonoma County that includes players like Andrew Vaughn (Chicago White Sox), Spencer Torkelson (Detroit Tigers), Justin Bruihl (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Anthony Bender (Miami Marlins) as well as 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 fortitude it took for Alexander to stick with the sport through so much adversity. He said it takes a special player with a true passion for the game to persevere through what Alexander did, when so many players would have taken the easier route of quitting and looking for their next opportunity.

“I know he’s not satisfied,” Neidlinger said. “He’s worked hard through this journey, and it’s hardened him, it’s toughened him, he’s learned a lot and I think you can say with how tough this journey is, in some ways, it’s a blessing in disguise because it’s prepared him mentally to handle this and it showed on Wednesday.”

You can reach Staff Writer Gus Morris at 707-304-9372 or gus.morris@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @JustGusPD.

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