Job: Professional Baseball Player, Houston Astros
Location: Santa Clarita, California/Houston, Texas
It's not the most traditional career path, but here at The YoPro Know, we want to share all of the paths you can take. So if being an athlete is your passion, take a look. A big thanks to Adam, one of our past interviewees, for connecting us with Alex.
Give a brief background of yourself.
I was raised in Santa Clarita, California, and went to high school out in Mission Hills, where I met Adam. After high school, I went to California Polytech University, in San Luis Obispo, where I studied Communications and played baseball for three years. I got drafted by the Astros in 2018 in the fourth round and I've been playing minor league baseball for the last two seasons in the minor league farm system for the Astros. My whole life has been dedicated to athletics up to this point.
When did you know that this was what you wanted to do?
In high school, I actually played football, baseball, and basketball. I always took school very seriously because I didn't know what the future was gonna hold for me, as far as my athletic career was concerned. I got a couple of offers to play division one football, but I didn't think that was the right route for me to get to where I am now. Ultimately, I ended up choosing baseball as my main sport after my junior year because I thought that it was the right fit for me athletically. My dad has been a big influence in my life, and the competitive fire he instilled in me also led me to choose baseball. I even got drafted to play baseball as a high schooler, but I did not think that I was ready from an athletic or maturity standpoint, so it was not the right fit at the time.
Can you talk about the process of getting into the minor leagues?
The way the draft works in college is that you either have to be 21 years old or you have to have three years of school under your belt. Whichever one comes first is the way it works to start the draft process. In my case, I got drafted at 20, but I had three years of school under my belt because I was young for my class. On draft day, you hear from a lot of teams, and if you’re picked, the team calls you before your pick comes up, to let you know that you're going to get drafted by them. It was a really emotional day for my family and me, because of the long process leading up to that point. This process is one that you don't know what will happen when you're going into it, or what it will end up being like. There are about six levels in the minor leagues, and I’m working to be Double-A, Triple-A, and then move to the big leagues.
Can you talk about what it's like on the team?
A lot of us minor leaguers make less than minimum wage throughout the four seasons. We get paid for the time that we put in during the season, which is six months long, and that's the only time throughout the year that we're getting paid. We're at the fields for about 10 to 12 hours a day, and most of the time, we get there around noon and don't leave until 10:30-11 p.m. This is our typical routine for 140 games throughout the season with only one or two off days sprinkled in there. I would say that most of us believe that it's worth it because the light that we see at the end of the tunnel is making it to the big leagues. It definitely gets hard being away from home for six of the twelve months out of the year and not being around my family. However, these are the sacrifices that I'm willing to make to ultimately try and get to the big leagues.
What is your living situation and how do you support yourself?
Going in the fourth round draft, I was lucky enough to obtain a decent signing bonus, which is basically what I'm living off of right now. My parents are gracious enough to let me live at home during the offseason, and they help me out when it comes to meals. If something were to happen and I needed to support myself, I have savings but it's not something that I want to jump into and spend, especially because it's something that will help me if playing in the major league doesn't work out. I'd like to have my savings as a safety net so when I start my career outside of baseball, I have some financial stability. I know some people don't have that type of luxury so I’d consider myself to be very lucky in that sense.
What has been the biggest hardship for you since you started your career?
My biggest hardship is being away from my family. There are a lot of sacrifices I have to make, and I have a very tight-knit family, so it’s hard. Both of my parents come from homes that are very family-oriented and are always having large family gatherings. Knowing how fun those gatherings are and missing out on that important quality family time during the offseason or the season has been a challenge for me. That's why this time of uncertainty is like a blessing in disguise. It is hard being away from the game this much and I want to be out there, but I'm also trying to take advantage of getting to be at home with my family for a longer amount of time than usual.
How has your career been impacted by COVID-19?
All of us minor leaguers and big leaguers are kind of in the dark as to what the next month or two holds. Nevertheless, we are trying to stay ready, so I go outside and get my workouts in on my own schedule. However, there are some hurdles to getting full workouts in right now because there are not a lot of hitting cages or gyms open. There are also not a lot of restaurants or supplement places that are open, which can make it a challenge to get the calories that I need every day based on my off-season training regime. I know that I have to make it work and also make the most of the situation. The pandemic is bigger than baseball, and I trust that we'll get back on the field when the time is right.
What's your favorite place that you've traveled to for games?
I would say my favorite place so far is Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Parkview Field is home to the affiliate team of the San Diego Padres and has beautiful grass and massive stands, which were filled when I played there. To me, it mimicked a major league stadium so getting to experience that with my teammates made it surreal. The big-league teams have amazing facilities, amazing parks, and big crowds every night, so it kind of made me feel like I was one of them for a day.
Do you ever wish that you were doing something else? Do you ever think about what it could have been like if you’d taken a different path?
When I went to college to study communications, it was important to me to make sure that I got good grades and worked hard, but in the front of my mind, I always knew I just wanted to play baseball. I had no other thoughts in my mind and I didn’t have another option. I know that that's a little weird to say, but that's the way that my mind had to work for me to get up in the morning and compete every day. There are times when I wonder, “what if I went on a different career path?”, but I always come to the conclusion, that working against the odds to try and get to the big leagues is something I will always find very rewarding. To me, there's a little bit of bravery in that, because the outcome of my path is not guaranteed, but I'm going forward anyway.
If you have advice for somebody looking to go pro or just any advice at all, what would you say?
Life can kind of start to feel pretty grim, especially for me, when I haven't gotten a hit in a week or so. However, I always remind myself to take it day by day and keep a positive mindset, you can't play this game without being positive. There’s always something that you can learn and grow from when you make mistakes, but you have to try to stay in a positive mindset.
YoPro Know's Takeaways:
- Start building up your savings when you are young.
- Pick a career path that you find rewarding.
- Keep a positive mindset.
Check it out: Alex Mckenna's Career Stats