Oct. 26, 2006
Not only is it Homecoming for the Eastern Washington University football team this weekend, but this entire season has been a homecoming of sorts for West Plains athletic prodigy Alexis Alexander.
The sophomore starting fullback and Medical Lake High School graduate is finally back after doing some traveling. Traveling, that is, through the ranks of professional baseball after he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the Major League Baseball draft in 2001.
"It was a great experience -- I learned a lot of things playing professional baseball," said Alexander, who was an 18th round selection by the Royals and played three seasons in the minors. "I jumped on that right out of high school because professional baseball sounded like a great opportunity for me."
Named after the 1980s world-champion boxer from Nicaragua, Alexis Arguello, Alexander was able to play with or against some world class athletes like Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, David Justice and Jamie Moyer.
Alexander even batted ahead of Beltran in the lineup and developed a pretty good friendship while the major leaguer was doing a rehabilitation stint in the minors.
"He hit fourth, and I hit third," Alexander said. "He's something else, pretty amazing, and I felt pretty cool too."
Being a professional baseball player also meant that Alexander had to travel a lot, and you could spend the entire day looking at the list of stops that he's made.
"I feel like I've pretty much hit the entire country," said Alexander, who went to Florida after being drafted, then came back up to play for the hometown Spokane Indians. After that his stops included Arizona, Iowa, Michigan and Delaware.
To say this Eagle has some frequent flyer miles would be an understatement, although in minor league baseball, bus trips are the norm.
Alexander said after things seemed to become stagnant in the Royals farm system, he started to feel a desire to play college football again.
"I've always had a love for football -- I have a passion for it," he said. "Baseball was always the other sport. I always thought to myself that even if I go to the big leagues, I still want to play college football."
Alexander first was a walk-on at Washington State University for the 2005 season and played on the scout team. He then completed his homecoming by transferring to Eastern, where he's the elder statesman of the team at age 23 (soon to be 24) but still only a sophomore.
"I'm the grandpa on the team," said Alexander. "I have to be an example to a lot of these guys. We have a young team and we'll be good in the near future."
Alexander said that even though he had not played in a football game since high school, it wasn't a problem adjusting back to the gridiron.
"Football has always been the natural thing for me to do," he said. "I just go out to practice, run hard, hit hard and things just fall into place."
Woodward Stadium certainly couldn't be any more familiar, since as a kid he came to EWU games while going to school in Medical Lake. He remembers all the great Montana games played.
When he stepped out onto the football field in high school, he made a name for himself. He earned numerous honors during his senior season, including All-State accolades from Washington Prep Football Report and the Associated Press. He was also named the Great Northern League Offensive MVP and played in the East-West 2A All-State Game.
The last game he played for Medical Lake High School came in October 2000 when he went up against Lakeside High School. Current teammate Gregor Smith was a sophomore on Lakeside's team that year.
Nearly six years later, on Aug. 31, 2006, Alexander started for the Eagles at fullback versus Oregon State. Even after a six-year wait, he remembers his last game in a Medical Lake uniform well.
"I had about 30 carries for something like 230 yards and three touchdowns and 10 to 12 tackles," Alexander told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in September. "Then, I took a six-year rest."
But fortunately for the Eagles, it was a six-year rest that led to a Homecoming.
"This is playing in my backyard," said Alexander.