All American Game | Story | 8/7/2020

Mich.'s Mooney a man on the move

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Alex Mooney (Perfect Game)

The kid from the north Detroit Metro suburb of Rochester Hills, Mich., was a ballplayer on the move this week, making his way from Alabama to Georgia in his constant quest to perform alongside some of the very best ballplayers from the national prep class of 2021.

When Alex Mooney – who can count himself among the very best 2021s – spoke with PG late afternoon on Aug. 5, he had just finished participating at the East Coast Pro Showcase in Hoover, Ala. He was making his way to the north Atlanta suburbs to take part in the 2020 Area Code Games which were moved from their traditional home in Long Beach, Calif., to the LakePoint Sports Complex in Emerson, Ga.; they begin Aug. 7.

It’s been a busy end of the summer for Mooney, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound, five-tool shortstop who will soon begin his senior year at Michigan Division 2 baseball powerhouse Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School. He is a Duke commit who Perfect Game ranks as the No. 20 overall national prospect in his class (No. 5 shortstop) and the No. 1 overall prospect in Michigan.

And, while also on the road in July, he received his official invitation to perform at the 18th Annual PG All-American Classic at Chickasaw Bricktown  Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City, Okla., on Sept. 4. He embraced the invite as confirmation that the effort he put forth on hundreds of ballfields over the past several years had not gone unnoticed.

“I was really excited,” Mooney told PG when asked about the PGAAC. “You look at those games over the last few years and it’s an honor to be up there with those guys. I find it exciting because I get a chance to compete with the best guys and try to show that I fit in with those guys.”

Mooney and fellow shortstop Luke Leto (No. 28 ranked) from Portage Central High School are the two players representing Michigan at the Classic this year; they will be suiting up for the West Team in Oklahoma City.

They become the eighth and ninth Michigan prospects to be invited to the PGAAC, a distinguished alumni list that features current New York Yankee DJ LeMahieu among others. Mooney acknowledges that Michigan isn’t generally regarded as a state that churns out dozens of top prospects every year but he also thinks it gets a bit of a bad rap.

“With the cold weather and stuff like that, it kind of plays at a disadvantage for us,” he said. “I think it’s (impressive) because it shows that there are good players up in Michigan and just because we’re a cold-weather state it doesn’t mean we can’t play. … We’re not at too big of a disadvantage and it’s kind of cool to be part of that select little group that’s been there.”

Mooney is part of an Orchard Lake St. Mary’s baseball program that won a Michigan Division 2 state championship in 2019 when it went 26-0-2 in its final 28 games after a 7-9-0 start. He doubled, singled twice and drove in two runs in the 8-1 win over Grand Rapids Central Catholic in the D-2 championship game.

“Speaking about Alex Mooney, he’s our best player; he’s outstanding,” OL St. Mary’s head coach Matt Petry told PG during a telephone conversation regarding the school’s program that took place in February. “He’s kind of the straw that’s going to stir the drink as far as our lineup’s concerned; he was that last year as a sophomore, too.”

The Eaglets never got a chance to defend that title after the 2020 season was cancelled in March by the coronavirus pandemic before it even began. PG ranked St. Mary’s the No. 19 team in the country in the last PG High School Top 50 National Rankings published in late March.

Not very many of his baseball teammates are involved in other sports so they put in as much work on baseball as they possibly can during what turns into a long offseason.

“We’re in the weight room almost every single day in the winter and we’re getting swings in and stuff like that,” Mooney said. “When you have other guys (around you) who are talented and who have a lot of skills it pushes you harder. You kind of want to try to be the standout, I guess, but then the guy next to you wants to be the standout, too … which creates this competitive drive between us. Once the season starts we’re really dialed into playing for the team and trying to get as many wins as possible.”

The cancellation of the 2020 high school baseball season was tough on players all across the country but Mooney, not unlike his peers from coast-to-coast, tried to make the best of it. He told PG that he didn’t leave his house for nearly two months while taking full advantage of the weight room his parents Joe and Jennifer installed in their basement.

He was also able to get in some “dry hacks” while stuck inside but It was still snowing in southeast Michigan in March and April so any outdoor options were severely limited.

“Once it started to warmup and we could get outside, we built a cage in our backyard,” Mooney told PG. “I was lifting and hitting every day and just trying to prepare myself for the (summer) PG events.”

There was no time to test the waters, either. Mooney climbed up on the high board at the pool and dived right in, taking part in the PG National Showcase in Hoover in late June. It quickly became apparent that whatever he had done to keep himself in baseball shape during the long layoff was paying off big-time.

There was the 6.67-second 60-yard dash (he ran from home to first in 4.36 seconds) and the 94 mph throw across the infield. He showed plus-athleticism at shortstop and at the plate, and his all-around game prompted this observation from a PG scout:

“The PG National (performance) proved the massive overall toolset. Fluid, graceful and loads of upside remain even though he is already a consistent performer.”

For his part, Mooney was proud of the way he was able to take advantage of the opportunity the PG National Showcase provided him.

“I worked really hard in the offseason to get stronger and faster,” he said. “So when you look at the numbers from last year to this year and the improvement, it kind of gives you a sense of satisfaction but, then again, those numbers can always go up. I was happy with it but there’s always numbers that can go higher; I’m always trying to get better.”

The National wasn’t Mooney’s first PG showcase experience. He was at both the 2018 and 2019 PG Great Lakes Indoor Showcase in Rossford, Ohio, and earned Top Prospect List recognition at both.

“I feel like that every year I’ve gotten a little bit better at each one of those five tools,” he said. “I’m never really satisfied … and every year I’ve focused on getting better at every one of those. As you do that, you just become a better player overall.”

But it has been his play at some of the most prestigious PG WWBA tournaments where Mooney has really been able to show off his tools.

He played primarily with the Michigan-based Motor City Hit Dogs from 2016-18 and was named to two all-tournament teams during his time with that well-respected national program. But in 2019 he was recruited to play for Jeff Petty and the nationally prominent Canes Baseball organization where he flourished.

Mooney was named all-tournament at both the 2019 PG WWBA 16U National Championship and the 2019 PG 16U World Series while playing with the Canes National 16U. He also turned in all-tournament performances at the Ultimate Baseball Challenge powered by Baseball America & Perfect Game and at the PG WWBA 17U National Championship this summer while playing with the Canes National 17U.

He was part of the Canes National teams that won PG national championship titles at the 2019 WWBA Underclass World Championship and at the 2020 WWBA 17U National Elite Championship. Mooney called his association with the Canes program “awesome” and was especially complementary of the coaching and training he’s received in his time there.

The talent level on this year’s Canes National 17U roster is undisputable. Mooney, in fact, is one of at least seven PG All-Americans who were rostered with the team this summer joining righthander Max Debiec, outfielder Malakhi Knight, righthander Cale Lansville, catcher Rene Lastres, outfielder Daylen Lile and shortstop Cody Schrier.

“Playing with guys like that really ups your game. It makes you want to play harder because you don’t want to be that guy that’s lacking,” Mooney said. “So everyone gets that competitive edge and we all kind of turn it up when you’re playing with such good players.”

Mooney’s dad, Joe Mooney, is a healthcare executive who played college baseball at the University of Michigan. Joe coached his son from ages 8 through 12 and had a big impact on Alex. Mooney feels like he really learned a lot about the basics of the game from his dad during those formative years and was able to build upon that foundation during his teen years which has led him to some very lofty perches.

The decision to commit to Duke was a relatively easy one for Mooney, although decisions that life-changing are never really easy. An excellent student, the academic side of things was  important to Alex and his parents, but the athletic side was equally important and Duke offered excellence in both fields.

Mooney wanted to play in an elite baseball conference and the Blue Demons’ residency in the ACC certainly checks that box. Coming from a cold-weather state, Mooney was also looking for a warm place to play his home games, and Durham, N.C., checks that box, as well.

“I love the coaches there and just everything about the place stood out for me as my favorite,” he said about joining head coach Chris Pollard’s elite program. “I visited once or twice and I just knew it was the place for me.”

The Area Code Games are next up on Mooney’s busy schedule and then he’ll enjoy a couple of weeks of downtime before heading to Oklahoma City for the PGAA Classic festivities on Sept. 2. After that experience, he plans on taking the rest of September off to catch his breath and get back on his feet a little bit. He’ll put this challenging 2020 travel ball season behind him after joining the Canes at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 8-12.

But it is the PGAAC and everything that the event offers that he might just be looking forward to the most right now.

“I know a lot of the guys in the game; I’ve played with Luke Leto all through youth (baseball) so I know him really well,” Mooney said. “And, obviously, I’m really close with the Canes players; we were a tight-knit group this year. …

“I think it will be a lot of fun to play with the guys I know and all the top players in the country; it will be a lot of fun to compete with them.”

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