Pittsburgh Pirates: A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer With Stephen Alemais

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In th 14th installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer’ I spoke with the Bronx’s very own Stephen Alemais. A slick fielding middle infield prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, and an all-around great guy.

Over the course of time, you can find that special individual who can talk your ear off and you not even care about it. Stephen Alemais is one of those guys for me. In the 14th installment of ‘A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer,’ you will see what I mean after you learn about the Pittsburgh Pirates infield prospect.

Alemais is a strong willed individual with several redeeming qualities about himself. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he got us covered on that. “On the baseball side, I want people to know how passionate I am for the game and how much I love the game. One of the biggest things for me is I want people to know that I’m trustworthy and reliable.” As for the one word that describes him best, Alemais simply said “passionate.”

There are several reasons why we do what we do. It could be a parental figure, or it could be something you’re just born with. I wanted to know why Alemais is playing baseball and who or what drove him to do it.

“It’s weird because my dad didn’t play baseball, you know, coming from a Dominican household you would think he played baseball. He played football and basketball he was a big guy. My mom was a dancer, and she went to LaGuardia in NYC, which is one of the big art performing schools.”

Alemais continued, “I think my dad’s dad was a big baseball fan, but he lives in the Dominican, and my mom’s dad was too. It’s something I just picked up as a kid I would always play with a ball. My first word was ball, and then my mom would always tell me I wouldn’t put a bat down. Baseball is something I just picked up as a kid, according to my parents. Now that my dad was kind of forced to learn the game, and once he did, he fell in love with it, and now it’s all baseball in the family.”

Staying within the confines of influences, I wanted to know if any coaches in his life had a significant impact on his life. “Yea, there were a bunch of coaches. It’s funny because as soon as I started liking baseball, my dad did too, and he started coaching all my little leagues, and he fell in love with the game. Definitely, my dad was one of my coaches that had an impact on me. My high school coach was apart of that too.”

Growing up in the “Concrete Jungle,” or New York City as the uncool people call it, I wanted to know who his idol was growing up.

“I grew up in the Bronx, so Derek Jeter was it for me. I grew up in the shadows of Yankee Stadium, and when I played, people would always put me at shortstop. I wore number two in every little league and travel team. The other player for me was Jose Reyes just because those were the two shortstops in New York City.”

Alemais was the first player I’ve ever interviewed from the “Big Apple” so I wanted to know what is was like for the Pittsburgh Pirates prospect growing up in such a big city like that.

“It’s different. Everyone doesn’t understand it until they actually live it or are there for a while. It’s crazy everyone rides subways, and everything is packed. I’ve had guys come visit me from college, and they’re like I don’t know how you live here. This is what I’m used to, though. When I was ten, I started taking the train to go to school, and it was different.”

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Alemais went on to talk about how there would be times he was late for school due to the trains being so packed he couldn’t fit. There was another time he mentioned his college teammate Grant Brown, who was from Mississippi, made the mistake of “people watching,” and a guy on the train approached them and used some colorful words, to say the least, because of it. One of his favorite things after the season is to go home and just hear the noise of the city.

Alemais was drafted in the 3rd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, and I would imagine getting drafted is a very emotional moment in a young man’s life. I wanted to know what the day was like for him.

“It was a very surreal moment, and it was cool. It was just my dad, and my mom and I remember my agent gave me a call, and he said the Pittsburgh Pirates want you at this pick, and I was all for it. I was watching on the computer when they called it, and my mom started crying, and my dad teared up, which is weird because he never does that. It felt like all of the hard work has paid off.”

Going into his first year in pro ball, I’m sure several teaching moments stuck with Alemais, but I wanted to know what the main thing he took away from the season was.

“I found out baseball is harder than I thought. Everyone there is really good. I learned that because pretty much my whole life, I have been one of the best players, and that first year in pro ball was very humbling because I didn’t hit as well as I wanted. I remember saying this is going to be tough.” He hit the nail on the head as he went on to talk about how the minor leagues aren’t what people think and how they weren’t millionaires, and at times it’s a struggle.

“The game is 90% mental and 10% physical,” as Alemais put it in my next question regarding the mental side of the game and how things can be tough for some. “It’s definitely tough because this game is a game of failure, and you can never truly understand it until you’re in it. There’s times you start to question your own ability, and are you good enough. It’s one of those things you need to educate yourself on. I started reading the Derek Jeter Autobiography, and I remember reading in his first pro season, he made a lot of errors. Jeter called his dad, and he wanted to go home and quit, and I related to that. Like I said, this game was a lot harder than what I thought.”

Alemais continued to talk about once you mature, and you figure yourself out you start to grasp the game better, and you see why MLB players are there, and minor leaguers are here. There is a learning curve that they all have to face at some point, and some aren’t strong enough mentally to breakthrough, but the battle tested Stephen Alemais seemed to be born for this.

In 2018, Alemais saw a career high in games played with 120. I wanted to know how he felt during that season and if his body took a toll over that year.

“Not at all, you know, obviously the biggest thing for me is staying healthy. That was a good year for me to learn how to take care of my body. There’s some things you can’t control when it comes to injuries, and I’ve already had three shoulder surgeries, and those were all things I couldn’t control when it happened. That season prepared me to take care of my body for a long season. That was my first full year, where I didn’t have a significant injury where I was out for a long period of time.”

“I felt like I held my own in my first year in Double-A, and it put things in perspective for me, and I could hang with the big boys. What made it even better with my first year in Doulbe-A is being able to face guys that were in the big leagues a week later and getting three hits off a guy who the next week would strike out the heart of the lineup. It made me realize that we are so close yet so far.”

Alemais did have a great 2018 season with Altoona on a team that was stacked with guys like Bryan Reynolds, Ke’ Bryan Hayes, and Cole Tucker he had the second best batting average on that first place team in 2018.

Alemais talked about how he hit .279 that year, and the final game he tried to get to that .280 mark, and he was one hit short of reaching that goal. He felt good that he could hold his own on a stacked team that year, and it was a massive boost of confidence.

Now here comes the darker side of baseball, and that is the injury side of things and what it can do mentally to a player and, more specifically, what it can do to him.

“Jumping into last year, I was feeling good and healthy. I went back to shortstop and remembered thinking “ok, I get to show off a little bit because I’m better at shortstop than second base.” This was around the time Erik Gonzales got injured, and Cole Tucker got called up, and my manager told me to stay by your phone you could be going to Indy. Then we fast forward about a week to the Harrisburgh series. I got a hit in the first inning I stole second and slid headfirst, and when I did that, I felt a pop in my right shoulder, and I knew what happened because I’ve dealt with this so many times before.”

“I remember for the first time, mentally questioning my career in baseball. That’s something I’ve never questioned in my life because I’ve always believed in myself. I was thinking, am I ever going to be the same player again or how much longer can I this and is my window closing. I was very down for a while, and it was a very scary mental place that I was in.” That had to have been tough to talk about, and I commend Alemais for being so open about a touchy subject.

Going on a lighter side of an injury is the rehab process, and I wanted to know how that was going for him. “It’s been a lot easier because I’ve done this twice with my left shoulder. That’s been the positive of it all I knew what I had to do and how to go about my business. I would joke with the trainers and say if you guys need a shoulder specialist, I’m your guy. It was very lengthy because it was my throwing arm. Cole (Tucker) had the same surgery before, and I had him in my ear too, and he was a big help in this process.”

With the halt in baseball, I wanted to know if he was able to get in some good work either by himself or if he found a workout partner like some players have been able to do. “There is a group of guys we had Amed Rosario, Carlos Santana, Miguel Andujar, and myself. We were working out in Tampa because I didn’t want to go home due to how bad the virus was in New York. My uncle also lives in Tampa so we built a batting cage in the backyard. I’ve been able to stay in shape for baseball with hitting and other things. I’m very grateful for that because I know there is a lot of people that don’t have that.”

For any of you who have seen Alemais, you know he is covered in beautiful ink on his body. I wanted to know what the tattoos meant to him. “They are very personal, it’s stuff I’ve been through and things that motivate me. I have a cousin who does tattoos. When I was younger, I was a big artist I would pick up a pencil, and I would draw a lot because my mom was an artist too. She had a couple of tattoos, and I was intrigued by them. I have things from bible quotes to quotes from books and just little reminders for why I got to keep going and why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

We talked a bit about how the new front office brought a fresh feeling with them. With new Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington and the new skipper Derek Shelton, Alemais mentioned how the team wasn’t as militant as it once was under the old regime. Guys could do their own thing and how it was a relief to finally feel loose again. I would have to agree both Cherington and Shelton have brought a sense of comfort and a newfound focus to bring the team back to prominence.

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On to the last and most important question of all for this column. I asked Alemais if he listened to Drake’s new album yet. Like I had hoped, he said, “of course.” Drake, for both Alemais and I, is one of our favorite rappers, and for Alemais, Drake is his favorite all time rapper.

This conversation could’ve gone on for hours, and I wouldn’t have cared I had a blast talking with the Bronx native. I do indeed hope there is a season for his sake so I can watch him play phenomenal defense and swing that lumber as he continues to work his way toward cracking the Pittsburgh Pirates roster.

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