A major changeup

A major changeup

From the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system, to the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League, Alex FaGalde has played baseball in various places. 

His current setting is the Joe Kelly Field at Pierce College. This time, FaGalde isn’t the one standing on the mound. He’s working behind the scenes as a pitching coach and lending his expertise to student pitchers. 

FaGalde, a Sacramento native, played various sports growing up, including basketball and soccer. He found baseball to be his calling and tested out different positions before finding the right fit as a pitcher. 

“Pitching is where I found myself to be most competitive. It’s a position where the game doesn’t really start until you do and I enjoyed that aspect of it,” FaGalde said. “It’s nice knowing that when you’re on the mound, you’re probably the most important person for that play.” 

After playing baseball throughout high school and college, including two years at UC Riverside, FaGalde was drafted by the Cardinals in the 30th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. 

“It was something that I always hoped would happen and something I worked hard for,” FaGalde said. “To have that dream become realized was something really special for me.” 

FaGalde went on to play at various levels in the Cardinals’ minor league system in his four years with the organization, recording a cumulative ERA of 2.72 in 301 innings pitched. He reached Triple-A, the highest level of the MiLB, with the Memphis Redbirds in the 2021 season. 

Among one of his most memorable experiences while playing professional baseball was getting to perfect his cutter with the help of Cardinals’ Legend and two-time World Series champion Yadier Molina. 

“I started to throw a cutter and it wasn’t any pitcher or pitching coach who taught me the cutter– it was Yadier Molina,” FaGalde said. “He said that was a pitch that he thought could really change the way I attacked hitters.”  

After throwing a few bullpen sessions and a spring training game with him, FaGalde found the right grip with Molina’s guidance and continued to use the pitch until the end of his professional career. 

“Getting to throw to Yadier Molina is something I’ll always remember,” FaGalde said. 

FaGalde’s experience around big leaguers helped him pass down some knowledge to those around him through his coaching position.  

“He’s done a really great job at bringing the experience he’s had in an approachable way to the kids,” assistant coach Jackson Briscoe said. 

“All of these players want to get to as high of a playing level as they can and having someone that has played minor league baseball at a really high level is something all the kids look up to,” Briscoe said. “I think it gives whatever he says even more credence.”  

In 2021, after dealing with a recurring shoulder injury that kept him from playing for a portion of the season, FaGalde was released by the Cardinals in what he described as a “disappointing” moment. 

“It was tough but there’s so many memories to look back on,” FaGalde said. “It’s like that age old saying, ‘everybody is going to have a last game.’ For some people it’s 12 years old—for others it’s 18. Luckily for me, it was at 27, so I feel lucky to have been able to play that long.” 

FaGalde pondered on his future and whether or not he could continue playing professionally. He likened that time in his life to graduating college and not having any next steps planned. 

Given his history of injuries, he knew he was headed toward the end of his professional career.

“Eventually there in Triple-A, my body just kind of broke down and my shoulder had finally told me enough was enough,” FaGalde said. “I think it was more important for me to watch my health and spend more time with my family.”

Before retiring for good, he gave pro ball a few last shots that included playing winter baseball for the Criollos de Caguas, a team in the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League. 

The prospect of coaching became a reality to FaGalde through LA Valley College’s coaching staff, with whom FaGalde befriended through the many years he spent training there during offseasons. They informed him that Pierce was possibly seeking a pitching coach. 

After reaching out to Head Coach Bill Picketts and testing out the waters, FaGalde deemed coaching to be a good fit and hasn’t looked back since. 

He said the biggest challenge has been getting familiarized with the facilities and the field, but he added that coaching has been an enjoyable experience overall.

“My goal for my pitchers is to be able to help them move on to the next level,” FaGalde said. “If they want to chase a dream, then I want to do everything I can to not only help them develop, but help them get there and have success.” 

When he’s not on the field teaching pitching mechanics, FaGalde can be found spending time with his girlfriend and her family, taking part in fishing or golfing. He’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology at Cal Baptist University, which keeps his schedule packed. 

Brahama’s shortstop and second baseman Isaac Samano credited FaGalde for helping him better his mindset on the field. 

“Coach Alex has given me talks about staying calm, how to keep pushing myself and how to handle the mental approach of the game,” Samano said.  “He is a really smart guy– he has a lot of knowledge about the game and he’s very experienced.”

Outside of the mental aspect, FaGalde seeks to instill a sense of competitiveness within the team.

“A lot of times, the fear of failure holds us back from truly trying our best,” he said. “For me, allowing them to have that sense of conviction or confidence and be able to be aggressive as a pitcher, those are things I definitely want to instill with my guys.” 

So far, he’s confident that the team will pick themselves up and do better in the second half of the season after a rough first half saw the team go 4-15. 

“The frustrating part is that there is good talent here,” FaGalde said. “Now it’s just trying to have that cohesion and making sure that the guys are well-prepared.” 

And as long as there are players with a dream of moving up toward their goals, FaGalde will be doing his part in supporting them and sharing his knowledge through coaching– something he sees himself doing in the long run. 

“I think right now, I do feel like I’m where I should be,” FaGalde said. “I’m enjoying this stage in my coaching career and in my life. I enjoy coming to work everyday and doing what I’m doing now.”