Cardinal Newman left-hander Scott Alexander knows the routine pretty well this late in the high school baseball season. The batter digs in, determined to get a piece of Alexander's 90 mph-plus fastball or his newly learned slider. And just 20 feet or so behind the batter a slew of scouts aim their radar guns and take notice of Alexander's "arm slot."
There's still an innocence associated with amateur and high school ball, until a pro prospect like Alexander comes along. Then, words like "signability" and "first year player draft" take precedence over ERAs, batting averages an even the outcome of the games.
"There's definitely more pressure," Alexander said of pitching in front of elite scouts such as regional directors and national cross checkers.
Alexander is 7-1 with 101 strikeouts in 61 innings, has walked 20 and has an ERA of 1.04. Alexander, who is right-handed when he writes, is strictly left-handed in baseball. He's also hitting .500 (32-for-64) and earlier in the week had two triples in one game. He also has four steals.
Reds scout Dick Adams, a former high school and college coach who recently moved back to Sonoma County, said Alexander shows the stuff of a top-four round draft choice.
"I've seen Brandon Morrow (the former Rancho Cotate and Cal standout who was taken by Seattle with the seventh pick in the first round last year) and Gary Dailey (a Cal Poly SLO pitcher taken in the third round by the Cardinals last year), and Scott has the same arm slot and same arm speed," Adams said.
Just about every major-league club (only the Braves and Dodgers haven't made contact) is interested in the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder. Discovering left-handers who are 17 and can throw 93 mph is like discovering gold.
As Adams noted, young pitchers fill out, get stronger and usually throw harder. That's what happened to Morrow, who received a $2.45 million signing bonus from Seattle, after displaying a 99 mph fastball in the Cape Cod summer league.
Alexander has accepted an athletic scholarship to Pepperdine University and said he'd be perfectly happy attending a school with one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Still, major-league teams can draft Alexander in June, and if they make a good enough offer, well, Alexander and his family would have to seriously mull their options.
"It's part of the game," Alexander said of all the attention from the pros and the business of baseball. "It's a decision I'd be glad to make."
Alexander knows a little something about the game behind the game. His older brother Stuart, a hard-throwing right-hander who pitched at Windsor and Santa Rosa JC, was drafted and pitched for the Florida Marlins organization.
An arm injury led to Tommy John elbow surgery almost two years ago for Stuart, who hasn't been able to come back and pitch without pain. Scott's younger brother Jason, an eighth-grader, also is an up-and-coming pitcher. What are the odds of three brothers all playing pro ball?
This is Scott's first full high school season of pitching. Tendinitis limited him as a sophomore. Last year, to limit his workload, he was used as Newman's closer.
Adams, who blames the way Alexander was throwing his curve for the tendinitis, put Alexander on a Reds scout team last fall, starting him off in the outfield.
Finally, Alexander pitched in a game against Chabot College players. He pitched two innings and struck out five of the six batters he faced. Other scouts took notice.
"He's an outstanding athlete," said Adams, who has one workout that includes jumping over a nylon rope hooked to a fence. "I've only had two players jump as high as my sternum, and Scott is one of them."
Alexander ditched the curve for a slider that breaks down and in on right-handed batters. He also throws a change-up and spots his fastball well.
Alexander knows there's going to be more baseball in his future, so he's trying to enjoy the Cardinals' recent surge in the North Bay League and a possible North Coast Section playoff berth.
"The team is close," he said. "We kind of came in to the season getting a feel for each other. It was a new cast. Now, we seem to be clicking."
Newman first-year coach T.J. McMahon said he enjoys watching Alexander pitch and how "cool-headed" he is. And part of McMahon's job as coach is to answer all the calls from big-league clubs wanting to know when Alexander is pitching.
"My cell phone calls have doubled this season," McMahon said.
Alexander had it all working Friday against Maria Carrillo. He allowed one hit, struck out 12, didn't walk a batter and shut out the Pumas, 3-0.
"He's the real deal," said Carrillo coach Steve Tagnolli.