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Chinooks Featured: Alex Stevenson

 

By Nathan DeSutter

Video Story

On June 8th, Chinooks outfielder Alex Stevenson received his biggest surprise of the summer after earning Northwoods League Player of the Night for his 4-5, 3 RBI effort against Rockford.

It’s not that he didn’t think he deserved the award, he just didn’t know it existed.

That moment sums up Stevenson’s start to the Chinooks’ season—a completely unexpected but unstoppable force in the batter’s box.

Stevenson came to Mequon as a pitcher. In his two years at Eastern Illinois, he threw 127 innings to a 6.94 ERA over 40 appearances and 17 starts as the Saturday starter.

And with that commitment to pitching, the two-way High School star out of Lutheran South High School in Kirkwood, Missouri rarely picked up a bat for the Panthers. In just 29 total collegiate at-bats, he had 6 hits—all singles outside of one home run against Tennessee Tech on April 1st (not a prank).

But this summer, his coaches had a different plan for him when he got the Northwoods League.

“My school wanted me to hit more during the summer,” Stevenson said.  “We had seniors that left this year, and they were all outfielders. So, they want me to start a Friday game then play the field Saturday and Sunday.”

With what they’ve seen from the converted pitcher so far, Eastern Illinois has to be thrilled to get him back on campus for his junior year.

Through nine games, Stevenson is hitting a team-high .333 (11-33) with 7 RBI, 3 walks and only 4 strikeouts against some of the best summer collegiate pitching in the nation.

But it hasn’t just been a few hits sprayed out here and there, Stevenson has jolted the Chinooks offense with multiple big nights.

During his debut in the lineup against Kalamazoo on May 30th, he went 4-5 and scored 3 runs en route to a 12-2 Chinooks victory, their first of the summer.

“I hadn’t swung in a while, so came out ready to hack ready to get after it,” Stevenson said after the game. “See the ball up, first pitch fastball right there, I’m hitting it.”

And in a 5-3 victory over Battle Creek, he went 1-3 with 3 RBI. That makes him the only player on the Chinooks offense with multiple three RBI games. In fact, he’s the only player to have a three-RBI game at all.

Outside of his bat, Stevenson has been a menace on the base paths, already swiping four bags, and his speed combined with a strong pitching arm has made him a threat in the outfield.

However, Stevenson doesn’t credit a changed approach, good luck or seeing the ball well for his success. Instead, he attributes the numbers to his ability to stay loose on the field. More specifically, his dance moves.

Stevenson loves to dance. Anytime there’s a song playing over the loudspeaker, not matter the time or location, it’s likely Stevenson is at the very least bobbing his head.

“You see a lot of (MLB players) in the dugout dancing and having fun,” he said. “After someone hits a home run, they’re dancing in the bullpen. I just decided to bring that out here and give my teammates something to laugh and joke about … it helps with everything.”

During a fog delay on June 12, he, DJ Lee and Cole Turney broke it down to the Cha-Cha slide to entertain the fans that stuck it out. Then, he and the Chinooks’ mascot, Gil, battled a few Madison Mallards players in a dance-off.

It was the only win of the night in a 4-0 Lakeshore loss.

But for Stevenson, it was one of the best nights of the summer. He loves the energy at Kapco Park.

“My host family goes. They cheer me on. It gives me a lot of energy, a lot of focus,” he said. “And Gil, he’s a character … he gets the energy going. “

And his teammates have latched on to Stevenson’s fun-loving style, especially fellow outfielder Cole Turney.

“I wake up every morning just to shake that mans hand,” Turney said with a big smile on his face while Stevenson sat close by on a bucket.” That guy starts busting dance moves, and the vibe in the entire park is just amazing … every dance move he brings to the table is unreal.”

More than just a friendship, Stevenson’s attitude has helped Turney develop and settle into a groove after a rough start.

Turney opened the season 3 for 31 with 16 strikeouts and 3 walks. Granted, two of those three hits were home runs—one being a walk-off winner against Rockford—but the numbers were far off what was expected from the Arkansas freshman drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 34th round and rated as the number two overall recruit from the state of Texas in 2017.

It would’ve been easy for Turney to get frustrated with himself slump further and further. But thanks, in part, to Stevenson, he chose to stay loose, have fun and have the hits come in due time.

“It’s hard to come out here and play every day,” he said. “None of us have done that before unless they’ve been in this league already.” But, he said, Stevenson’s attitude and antics are crucial for morale and making each game enjoyable.

Over his last seven games, Turney is 6-20 with 4 RBI, 7 walks and 9 strikeouts, and his approach at the plate is much more composed and disciplined.

Outside of going to lift together, Turney and Stevenson have developed a handshake and are always hanging out and talking. Stevenson describes Turney as a “character” while Turney says Stevenson is a “goon” and a “savage.”

However, their friendship might become long-distance sooner than they’d hoped.

Stevenson is on a temporary contract, meaning unless he’s offered a full-time position on the team, he’ll be cut in order to make room for another player.

But his summer goal is bigger than just earning a roster spot, he wants to be known as one of the best outfielders in the Northwoods League.

“As of now, since I’m playing well. All-Star game coming up, I’d like to play in that,” Stevenson said. “I would enjoy every moment of it.”

Despite the uncertainty, he’ll just keep dancing, putting smiles on the faces of his teammates and pumping up the crowd at Kapco Park.