Reese the Raptor: Alexiades back for 3rd season in Ogden; Pioneer Baseball League nears opening day
OGDEN — Reese Alexiades is a positive archetype of what baseball looks like in the Pioneer League, both for himself and for the makeup of teams around the league.
The native of Manhattan Beach, California, had just finished a solid final season of college ball at Pepperdine (.389 with nine home runs, 29 RBIs in 35 games while dealing with some injuries) in late May 2021, and had hopes that the MLB Draft would bring him good news.
But like so many others, the 2021 contraction of the minor leagues and halving of the draft meant pro-level players like Alexiades weren’t contacted during that July draft. Later that month, Alexiades found himself at Lindquist Field for the first-ever Pioneer Baseball League tryout camp.
He caught everything that came his way in the outfield and, against the pitcher every team wanted and who was selected first in the ensuing tryout camp draft, Alexiades cracked a double off the left-center field wall.
“I think that did the job. Just needed one swing,” Alexiades said.
Ogden Raptors team president Dave Baggott noticed the pop Alexiades’ bat seemed to carry and when it was Ogden’s turn to select a player, the pick was easy.
Some draft picks only earn a guarantee to join their team in spring training but Alexiades joined the Raptors’ roster immediately. He has since played 128 games for Ogden and is back for his third season. He’s one of about 15 former Raptors in spring training this week as the club prepares for opening day on May 23.
Depending on how this season goes, Alexiades may reach the mark that makes him the player to wear a Raptors jersey in more games than anyone else for a franchise celebrating 30 years this season. (Presumably and unofficially, that mark belongs to Josh Broughton, who played 180 games for the Raptors over the last two seasons).
“There’s not really a better place to be than here. The staff is incredible,” Alexiades said. “It shows how many guys came back and are in training, how many want to be back here, that’s a testament to the culture we’ve built. … It doesn’t feel like indy ball to me if people put a bad rep on that. This blows that out of the water.”
Alexiades has hit .342 with 16 home runs and 120 RBIs in his time in Ogden.
“If I could build a robot baseball player, it would have Reese Alexiades’s makeup and attitude. He goes out and does his job every day,” Raptors manager Kash Beauchamp said “He is steady, he is consistent. He is one of the best center fielders I’ve ever managed. He doesn’t have blinding speed but he gets great jumps and he catches everything. He never misses a cutoff man. He’s fundamentally sound. He can get you a big hit, hit the ball over the fence. There’s really not a hell of a lot not to like with that guy.”
Alexiades’s return signifies something that didn’t happen in years when the Raptors and the PBL were affiliated: fans now really get to know who is suiting up for their team, and the return of many talented players means the league is improving year over year (like, for example, PBL home run king Jayson Newman will be back in Missoula.)
“It’s coming into a league of its own now with less affiliate teams,” Alexiades said. “It’s a way better group of players, competition’s better. Every year I’ve been in this league, it’s gotten better”
Ogden has 40 players in spring training. That includes former Raptors like Coleton Horner, Dakota Conners and Brian Dansereau, and a slew of returning pitchers led by Christian Day, Ronny Orta, Chase Stratton, Riley Ottesen and more.
It also includes signings of top players from around the league, like Boise outfielder Juan Teixiera and most of Northern Colorado’s top players like shortstop Brandon Crosby, infielder Tim Bouchard, outfielder Cameron Phelts and pitcher Will Buraconak — plus PBL-familiar relief pitcher and knockout-round specialist Gaylan Young.
“I know we have guys from other teams in this league and I’m pretty happy they’re here,” Alexiades said Tuesday, the first full day of spring training. “They’re pretty good ballplayers, I’m excited for that.”
The number of rostered players needs to be at 26 by opening day, meaning competition is strong in the week leading up to first pitch.
“It’s very competitive. This is a seven-day spring training; I think we had 13 last year. That kind of forced me to bring more guys in so we could intersquad,” Beauchamp said. “The more live at-bats we get, the more we can evaluate pitching and hitting both … we want to play as many innings as we can, get as many at-bats as we can, because you can’t replace live game, one-on-one at-bats.”
Beauchamp himself is a returner, and he’s the first manager to return for a second season as Raptors skipper in 10 years (something that was once controlled by the Major League parent club). Since Damon Berryhill managed the Raptors from 2009-13, Ogden has had single-season managers every year since.
“This is a class organization, it’s that simple. I’ve got an owner who has played and understands the game. I’ve got a general manager who is on top of everything. I have a good coaching staff, two of them local, that care about these guys,” Beauchamp said. “It’s one of the better, if not the best, situation in independent baseball. … We have great people who come to the ballpark. What’s the reason not to come back?”
Alexiades and Beauchamp both highlighted the 12 Raptors players from last season who signed into affiliated minor league baseball, which Beauchamp says led the country in independent baseball and even bested some league’s overall totals.
“It’s very tough to win a championship, especially when you get 12 players signed by Major League teams,” Beauchamp said. “That right there is what this is all about. If a championship comes down the pike that way, then we are good to go. That’s what we play for but the bottom line is developing these players to get them a chance to live out their dreams.”
Camp goes through the week and includes an exhibition game against a barnstorming independent team called the Black Sox. That happens as part of this year’s FanFest which begins at 6 p.m. Friday. The fan home run derby returns, starting at 6 p.m., and the exhibition game follows with open concession and souvenir stands also available.
Opening day is Tuesday, May 23, when the Raptors open a six-game homestand against the Grand Junction Jackalopes. All home games start at 6:30 p.m. this season except Sunday games, which are set for 2 p.m.