Cole Alexander signs to play baseball at Central Arkansas
By Lance Catchings
Senior Cole Alexander made his college baseball dreams come true on National Signing Day when he signed to attend the University of Central Arkansas, surrounded by his friends and family. Alexander was a former two-sport athlete who decided to focus on baseball once he knew his height would probably not lend itself to playing Division I basketball.
“When I started talking to some colleges for basketball and realized my height wasn’t going to be tall enough to play Division I, I switched my focus to baseball completely,” Alexander said.
The signing was even more special for Alexander and his family, because this past summer, he suffered a devastating baseball injury during a showcase.
“The beginning of summer, I tore the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) in my left arm,” he said. “I was at the area code tryouts for the Texas Rangers in late June when I tore it. I was throwing in the bullpen and I was a little sore, but I just blocked it out because there were a lot of pro scouts there. I got up on the mound and first pitch, it popped. I threw a couple more pitches and played through it. The next day, I went to another showcase and I could barely straighten my arm. Despite that, there were a bunch of college coaches and pro scouts, so it was stupid, but I threw on the mound again. I could barely get it to the plate, and I realized I needed to go get an MRI.”
After the MRI confirmed the ligament was torn, Alexander said he initially went into shock.
“When I heard the injury, I thought I was going to be done for good,” he said. “It was the most painful thing I’ve felt in my life to this point when it happened. I had never been hurt in a sport like that before. I tried to switch and throw right handed, but I was sick to my stomach and couldn’t even do that.”
Alexander traveled to Houston to have surgery on his arm, which is commonly referred to as Tommy John surgery. He also had flexor tendons repaired.
“I went to Houston and had surgery performed by the Astros team doctor,” he said. “I had surgery in the middle of July, and the doctor said it was one of the worst ones he had ever seen. For about a week or so, I didn’t even know what to think. Then, I thought I could come back stronger. My x-rays showed I had it partially torn since I was probably 13 years old, which meant I had never played at 100 percent. That means I had never thrown at 100 percent at almost any time of my life, and that assured me that I can come back better.”
Now that he has finished rehab, Alexander feels much better about his potential out on the diamond.
“The rehab process has gone really quick,” he said. “It ended a few weeks ago, and now I am doing it at home. I have been hitting for about a month and a half, and my hitting feels better than it did before. I should start throwing in about a week or so. I’ll be in limited innings when we start district.”
Although it didn’t initially occur to him, the injury affected his recruiting cycle and how collegiate teams pursued him. UCA, on the other hand, continued to pursue him, which gave him the confidence that it was the right decision to sign with them.
“The injury played a larger part in the college process than I thought it would,” he said. “I was talking to some teams and when they heard about it, a lot of them decided to stop recruiting me. Central Arkansas called and said they would stick with me and were confident in what I could do. That really meant a lot to me, for them to show their dedication through that. It felt amazing to have their support and hear they were sticking with me.”
In addition to their loyalty through the injury, Alexander said UCA’s campus and the competitiveness of their baseball practices were big draws for him.
“When I went to visit them last year, I liked the campus, so I always kept them in the back of my mind,” he said. “In October, I went for an official visit and got to see everything on campus and liked their schedule. I watched their practice and it was competitive, and that helped make my decision for me. It feels amazing to get this opportunity and to have the opportunity to go against some of my current teammates in the future. It really feels like it will be the right place for me.”
UCA signed Alexander as a two-way player, meaning he’ll be able to pitch, hit and play first base, which is another reason he chose to sign.
“I am signed as a two-way player,” he said. “I did not want to stop pitching, hitting or playing first. Some schools closed that off and wanted me as one or the other. Central Arkansas said to come as both, and at their practice, I saw a lot of their guys doing both. They wanted to decide with me instead of deciding for me, and I like that.”
Alexander will be limited in pitching when the season starts, but can still contribute fully at the plate and playing first base. He and his teammates are excited about the energy level of the baseball program this season and have their sights set high with a brand new coach.
“Right now, I am working out every day, trying to get stronger,” he said. “I am trying to improve and become consistent with my hitting, so I can support the team that way. After that, it is just mentally getting ready for the season. It is a weird feeling going on in the baseball program right now. We all feel like we could make a good run at a state title this year. No one wants to talk about it, but we all feel the same way. Our new coach has really instilled in us the drive to win every game, and he has only been here a couple of months.”
The University of Central Arkansas is a Division I school located in Conway, Arkansas that competes in the Southland Conference.