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College | Story | 11/17/2021

The PG Path: Alex Mooney

Craig Cozart     
Photo: Alex Mooney (Perfect Game)
The PG Path: Max Carlson | Josh Hartle

"The key step for an infielder is the first one, but before the ball is hit." -Earl Weaver

Perfect Game had the opportunity to catch up with Perfect Game All-American and current Duke University shortstop, Alex Mooney, to ask him about his experiences that have led him to where he is today. We appreciate him taking the time out of his busy schedule and hope we can all learn a few things from his path thus far in baseball and in life.

PG: What was your first experience or memory with the incredible game of baseball?

Mooney: For me it was playing t-ball when I played for the Pirates for our local little league. I played basketball and football as well, but baseball was the game I always enjoyed the most.

PG: How old were you when you started playing organized baseball?

Mooney: I started playing t-ball when I was only 3 or 4 years old, and I started to get into travel ball when I was 8 years old.

PG: Who are a few of the most influential people in your baseball life to this point?

Mooney: For sure my dad, Joe, he was my coach from the time I started playing until I got to the Canes National. He’s the guy that I’ve always looked up to, he was a catcher at the University of Michigan, and he really taught me everything I know in the game today. He really laid the foundation fundamentally for me and my game so that I could build off that to where I am currently. So, it’s hard to overstate how influential he has been in my life. After that, I would say it was my high school coach, Matt Petry, he helped me with my recruiting process early in my career and coached me all three years of my high school career.

PG: What travel ball organization did you play with most of your amateur career?

Mooney: I played with the Motor City Hit Dogs until I was 15 years old and then I played with the Canes National until graduation.

PG: You put together a historic senior season at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School, ending with a state championship and winning the Mr. Baseball award for the state of Michigan. What stands out to you most about those accomplishments and what was your favorite baseball moment?

Mooney: It wasn’t the individual accomplishments that really stood out, I try not to focus on those things. The chemistry of our team and how well we gelled together both on and off the field is what I will remember most. The camaraderie that we built by doing things as a group off the field really made the difference for us. As far as my favorite moments, the first one that comes to mind is when we won the state championship my sophomore year and my older brother was on the team. Then my senior year, winning the state championship with my younger brother on the team, those are the type of moments that you never forget.

PG: When you hear the words Perfect Game Baseball, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Mooney: I knew that once we started playing in Perfect Game tournaments it was going to be a great opportunity to get exposure to the college and pro scouts, because these were the best events around. Before Perfect Game started hosting their events, it was difficult to get your name out there if you didn’t come from one of the baseball-heavy states in the south. But once I was able to compete against teams from all over the country, that’s when things started to really develop for me.

PG: How old were you when you played in your first Perfect Game event and where was it?

Mooney: I believe I was 13 and we played in the PG World Series with the Hit Dogs. I can remember being so excited to get on the plane and head down for that event knowing there were going to be scouts and coaches in the stands. It helped me learn how to perform in a “bigger setting” so to speak.

PG: What was your favorite Perfect Game venue and why?

Mooney: It had to be Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City for the PG All-American Game. The setting in downtown and the environment around the park just had an electricity to it that made things so much fun.

PG: What was your favorite Perfect Game event and why?

Mooney: The Perfect Game All-American Classic was my favorite event because it finally gave me a chance to meet all the guys that you had heard about or seen on social media. To just be able to hang out with those guys in the players’ lounge at the hotel, on the field and in the dugout was unique and I still talk to many of those guys to this day. When you get to spend time with the other players, relax during the home run derby and other pre-game activities, you get to know them at a different level than you would if it was just competing against them in game.

PG: For years you have been known for your blend of elite offensive and defensive tools. Growing up in Rochester Hills, Michigan where the weather had to have been challenging, did you have any unique training methods growing up to continue your development as a player?

Mooney: I wouldn’t really say I did anything unique, it was just about getting your reps in and hitting almost every day in the winter because there’s not much else you can do. We had a really nice indoor facility, so we knew that the guys down south were able to get on the field for live defensive work and I was determined to get in just as much work even if it was indoors. I always wanted to keep that competitive edge and I used the difficult weather conditions as motivation to figure out a way to get better every day and not use it as an excuse. It was tough to play in the cold, but we felt like it gave us an edge and a hardness that would benefit us later in our careers.

PG: You have smooth hands, tremendous foot speed and a plus arm, giving you all you need physically to be a premier shortstop. What advice would you give younger middle infielders that could help them take their game to the next level?

Mooney: There are three things that come to mind and the first is long toss as much as possible. Me and one of my teammates would really challenge our arms, even if we had to throw into a net inside, I always felt like my arm was in great shape. Second, work on your defensive skills through repetition as much as you possibly can. There’s no substitution for actually handling the ball and I would always take as many ground balls as I could on a daily basis. Lastly, spend as much time in the weight room as you can as well. Don’t just focus on the traditional lifts like squats and bench press, but do things that are good for functional movement. Plyometrics, change-of-direction drills and things like that are so beneficial for baseball players; work to become a better athlete.

PG: Your bat made a big jump in your last couple years of high school, where you consistently barreled balls against the best competition and your power began to become an elite tool as well. What changes did you make or what did you focus on to make such huge strides with the bat?

Mooney: I feel like my whole life I have been blessed with good bat-to-ball skills, that’s something that has always come naturally to me. But I was never the biggest, most physical guy on the field so I really focused on the things that would allow me to develop that power tool. Yes, I spent time in the weight room, but I also did a lot of underweight and overweight training with weighted bats and that helped me develop my hand strength and bat speed. Plus, I spent a significant amount of time hitting off machines at high velocity to teach me to be on time and be able to get on plane with the elevated pitch.

PG: Do you feel Perfect Game had an impact on your development as a player, and if so, how?

Mooney: Definitely, just going to those PG events when you are younger and seeing your ranking, your metrics, your evaluations was really motivating. You always want to be sure your trajectory is going up, you never want to see your numbers flatline or plateau, so that was always a driving force for me to keep working and improving as a player.

PG: You were a Perfect Game All-American, what does that mean to you to this day?

Mooney: Like I alluded to earlier, it was great, not necessarily because of the title, All-American, but meeting the guys that were in that game and being able to follow their careers. There were a bunch of high round picks in the MLB Draft and being able to stay in touch with those guys, whether they are in pro ball or college, has been really cool to develop those friendships.

PG: What was your favorite MLB team growing up and why?

Mooney: I actually have two and obviously, growing up near Detroit, I am a Tigers fan. They were really good when I was young, and I had the chance to get to a bunch of their games. I also would always cheer for the Yankees due to the fact that I am a big Jeter fan. I always tried to wear the #2 whenever possible and model my game after Jeter as much as I can.

PG: By all accounts you were projected to be a first rounder in last year’s MLB Amateur Draft. The draft is far from an exact science but what could you tell us about that process last year and what advice would you give to players that may be in that same situation in the future?

Mooney: The process for me was I tried not to really put too much thought into it, but going through it once I feel like has really prepared me for the next time I am draft eligible. My advice to guys that will go through that in the future is to be where your feet are and focus on the task at hand. Try not to worry about how you are playing as an individual but pour into the team emotionally and things will really take care of themselves. Try to do what you can to help your team collect as many wins as possible, and I was lucky to have that turn into a state championship for our team last year. I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out, I don’t have any regrets and I am happy and excited to be starting my career at Duke.

PG: What advice would you give younger players when it comes to positioning themselves to be recruited by colleges?

Mooney: No free ads here but I think playing Perfect Game events is a big one. It really helped me big time, but you need to be sure your game is ready to be put on display at one of the main events and you have to be ready to show out. You never know who may be watching and how that can impact the process down the line.

PG: You are playing collegiately at Duke University, why did you choose the Blue Devils?

Mooney: For me, it was a mix of several factors, and one was the elite academic reputation that Duke has. Me and my family talked about the fact that an economics degree from Duke was a 40-year decision not a 4-year decision, because that diploma will impact the rest of my life long after baseball is over. I love the coaching staff at Duke, and I wanted to play in the ACC and the weather here is definitely better than back home in Michigan.

PG: What has been the best part of your first fall at Duke and how have you grown as an individual?

Mooney: The best part so far has been getting to know the older guys on the team who have been in the program for a while. Those guys have done a great job of taking us under their wing so to speak and showing us the ropes here at Duke. I have definitely grown as an individual and learning how to handle the rigors of the classroom, the demands of the baseball program and still having a social life. It’s really about time management, so from that standpoint it has really been a learning experience and I have really enjoyed it thus far.

PG: What has been the biggest challenge in your career thus far and what could young players learn from your experience?

Mooney: My freshman summer, the last game of the season, I tore the labrum in my left shoulder. That was a real struggle, I had to have surgery and go through the rehab, which was quite painful and intense. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I could only lift weights with my lower body, and I made some huge strides putting on size and strength in my base.

PG: Baseball players in general are notorious for being very routine-oriented and at times superstitious. Do you have any traditions, maybe a go-to pre-game meal, or do you have any interesting superstitions you would be willing to share?

Mooney: Not too much pre-game other than like most athletes, I have a playlist of songs that I like to listen to, but other than that it’s more on-the-field routines. Before each at-bat and each pitch of every at-bat I have a mental process that I work through that helps me get locked in and ready to perform. I have a focal point on my bat that I always look at and take a deep breath to clear everything before the pitch. It puts my mind in a good place and gets me dialed in for what needs to be done in that pitch of the at-bat. The sooner a player can begin to refine their mental process the better they will be as they go up the line and face better competition.

PG: We live in a world where social media is prevalent, what is your favorite platform and what do you like to post?

Mooney: That’s tough but I guess I would have to say Twitter. I am not a big tweeter, but I like to retweet and send out posts on my favorite sports teams. I love the Lions, so I like to follow them on Twitter. I think Twitter is so diverse, you can follow the news, sports, you can look at funny memes, so I guess Twitter is my niche category, my niche app that I like to follow.

PG: Lastly, now that you have had a vast array of baseball experiences, what do you know now that you wish you knew back when you first started playing at a high level?

Mooney: I think it goes back to “be where your feet are” and don’t get too focused on what’s ahead. When you are younger, the focus is getting to play in front of college scouts and making a commitment, then it’s playing in front of pro scouts in the hopes of being drafted and so on. Enjoy the moment, time moves fast, so cherish the experiences you are having today.

. . . 

We hope you enjoyed this episode of the PG Path and getting to know Alex Mooney a little better. Hopefully you were able to gain some valuable insight and perspective from our conversation. Be on the lookout for the next installment of the PG Path coming soon! -Craig Cozart
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