"I always wanted to come here and play at Mississippi State," Luke Alexander said. "It was a dream come true when I got that offer, so I took it as soon as I could."
"Soon" meant the summer after Alexander's 8th grade year. The versatile standout earned the opportunity to wear the Maroon and White before he had even enrolled in high school. A strong summer showing yielded the opportunity to make a childhood dream a reality.
"I came here for a camp and Coach (John) Cohen really liked me. He pulled me in his office and offered," Alexander said. "When you're that young, you don't even really know how big of a deal that is or how big of an honor that really was. It was awesome. Most people have to wait until they're juniors and seniors until they get offered. I wasn't even in high school yet, so it was really an humbling experience. I was really blessed to get an offer that early."
While the verbal commitment was pretty much a formality, Alexander and his family took a few days to discuss things as a family. After some time to reflect, the decision to join the Diamond Dawgs was an easy one for the entire unit.
"I always knew that I wanted to come to Mississippi State, but it was probably four days later when I actually committed," Alexander shared. "I needed some time to talk to my parents, because they weren't here with me when I got the offer. After I talked with them, I committed."
Four years after his commitment to Mississippi State, Alexander was starting some as a true freshman on a team that would go on to win the Southeastern Conference Title and earn a Top Eight National seed in the NCAA college baseball tournament field.
"As a true freshman, you really just want to play," Alexander said. "It's just an honor to be able to step out there on the field and play for Mississippi State. To be able to start at short stop where I have always played was just awesome."
Before the talented newcomer could really settle in for SEC play, Alexander was battling an injury that would eventually require post season surgery to repair.
"It was very frustrating," Alexander said of being sidelined. "Breaking your hand after you've been starting and then having to just sit there and watch your team was hard. You have to work through everything in practice, but you know you're not going to play. It was very frustrating."
Alexander did his best to make the most of the situation. While some my elect to pout over their misfortune, the personable third baseman did what he could to grow and learn a new appreciation for the game he loved.
"I have notes in my phone that were written back then that I look at every day now," Alexander said. "I said back then that I wasn't going to waste a single day once I got back. I didn't want to waste another day, because I knew what it felt like not to play."
During the final stretch towards an SEC crown, Alexander did his best to fight through the physical adversity to fill a team need. On the road at Tuscaloosa in a series against Alabama, the talented freshman was inserted into the starting line-up in place of John Holland.
Alexander's first defensive opportunity that day would be the final one of the season. After dropping a double play ball in pain, Cohen made the mid-inning substitution. While casual observers may have thought the State skipper was being heavy handed, Cohen was actually showing some sympathy to a player battling with some adversity.
"He knew how bad it hurt," Alexander said of Cohen. "The throw hit me right on the spot where my hand had been hurting. It was probably the worst pain I have ever felt. (Cohen) saw it in my face and he didn't want me to have to go through that."
After the surgery, Alexander began the journey back towards good health. Before too long, the life long Bulldog fan was taking pain free cuts.
"I had been rehabbing for four or five days a week," Alexander said. "I would say around the middle of the summer I started feeling pretty good. I got back to hitting. Once I got back here, it has been great since day one. I have felt really good,"
The true sophomore also worked hard to add some size and strength during the off season. Alexander arrived on campus at 170 pounds and now tips the scales around 190. The extra mass has provided more power at the plate.
"I knew third base was a spot I could possibly play, so I put on weight," Alexander said. "You have to be a little bigger and be more of a power guy at third. I feel like I have put on 20 good pounds and it's made me bigger and stronger.
"I have seen more gap power and more doubles this year. I can definitely see a power difference from gaining those 20 pounds.
A short stop by high school trade, Alexander is certainly open to making the move back to the six hole once junior Ryan Gridley moves on to Major League Baseball.
"I think I will move back to short," Alexander said. "Short is what I have always played and that is probably where I am the most comfortable. I feel like I have the range to make those plays all over the field. I would love to play short again."
Mississippi State lost thirteen players off of last year's SEC Champion squad to the Major League Baseball draft. The Bulldogs are a team in transition, but Alexander believes the team has some pieces to make a solid run this season.
"It's been great with this new group of guys," Alexander shared. "Last year's guys were great and this year's guys are just as good. They're great people and great players. It's been good getting to know all of them. I can't wait to get back on another winning streak."
For many current Bulldogs, the learning process about Mississippi State began during the recruiting process. Alexander, on the other hand, spent many spring and summer days watching Bulldog legends deposit opposing pitches deep into the left field lounge.
With a handful of Bulldog big flies to his credit, Alexander explains that taking one deep over the left field wall is the stuff dreams are made of. While the roar of the crowd is a big part of the game day experience, State's man on the hot corner reports that sometimes the moment falls silent.
"It's an awesome feeling," Alexander said. "I hit two earlier this year that I knew were gone off of the bat. If you listen, you can hear it hit something out there. Everybody goes wild. Growing up and watching guys hit home runs here gave me chills. Now that I'm the one doing it, it's pretty surreal.
"When you're locked in on your at bats or in the field, you're not really thinking about the crowd. You don't even really hear the crowd. When I hit a double, I don't really hear the crowd until I am standing on second. I don't even really notice the roar of the crowd until things are pretty much over with."
#25 Mississippi State (19-11) will host Florida International (17-11) tonight in the second game in a two game set. The Bulldogs fell to the Panthers last night, 8-3, snapping their seven game winning streak. The Diamond Dawgs will look to right the ship tonight as they prepare for Kentucky who visits Dudy Noble Field as part of Super Bulldog Weekend.