OLSM’s Alex Mooney did it his way, signs for $1M bonus with Guardians

Detroit News

The Guardians selected Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Alex Mooney in the seventh round of the MLB Draft, but paid him like a second-round pick.

In the end, Alex Mooney did it his way. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I wanted to go to school to play college baseball, and that’s what I did,” Mooney said. “I wouldn’t trade my two years at Duke for the world. I’m so happy how everything turned out.”

Mooney, 21, was one of the top prep prospects coming out of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School in 2021, but he wasn’t selected in that year’s Major League Baseball Draft, because he had told every interested team that he wanted to go to college.

In this year’s draft, after playing two years for the Blue Devils, Mooney was taken in the seventh round (218th overall) by the Cleveland Guardians.

On Saturday afternoon in Goodyear, Arizona, Mooney officially signed with the Guardians, receiving a bonus of $1 million — well over the pick’s slot value of $231,300 — plus the organization agreed to pay for Mooney to finish his college degree. Mooney signed his contract surrounded by parents Joe and Jennifer, and brother Ryan; his other brother, Jack, an investment banker in North Carolina, couldn’t make the trip.

“It’s crazy,” Mooney told The News on Saturday. “It’s kind of a moment that I’ve dreamed about for a long time. It was pretty cool to have my family with me, and people watching on the live stream.

“It’s awesome. I think it’s pretty cool to see my journey and see that I got to go to school and still got to see my dream of playing pro baseball.

“It has been a dream come true, for sure.”

Mooney was considered the top prep player in Michigan for much of his time at St. Mary’s, which he led to two state championships.

At Duke, Mooney, a shortstop, made the ACC’s all-freshman team in 2022, and then made first-team all-ACC this past season, when he hit .315 with 20 doubles, 21 stolen bases and a .434 on-base percentage.

Most importantly at Duke, he was a student — not just in class, but in life. He said his two years at Duke make him better prepared for life as a professional baseball player.

“There’s a lot of things I learned at Duke,” he said. “You learn routines, how to manage your time, stuff like that. And obviously, you’ve got a social life, too, so you plan your days out for that. It makes pro ball a lot easier, even with things I learned like laundry, how to cook. College has prepared me greatly for that.

“And, of course, the college experience is fun. It’s awesome.”

So, you can cook now?

“Uhhh, I can cook basic stuff,” he said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t call myself a chef by any means, but if you want pasta, or a chicken breast, I can get that done.”

Then, there were the relationships he made at Duke.

“The people I’ve met over the last two years at Duke and in summer ball at Cape Cod,” Mooney said, “I wouldn’t trade those relationships for the world.”

Mooney, like so many other prospects awaiting to hear their name called in the crap shoot that is the MLB Draft, didn’t know what to expect this year. He was eligible for the draft after just two years of college because he had turned 21. But he knew the Guardians were interested.

About three weeks before the draft, Mooney had a 90-minute Zoom call with officials from the Guardians, and then he met many of them in person during the MLB Combine in Phoenix.

He was interested in the Guardians, too, given some good things he had heard about the organization from some of his buddies who play pro baseball.

When the Guardians met his price — he was plenty ready to go back to Duke if the Guardians came up short — he knew his dream of being a pro baseball player had finally arrived. Not to mention, a nice paycheck, though don’t bother asking if he has any plans for a big first splurge.

“Tossing that in the bank,” he said. “I’ve never been a super-flashy person with cars or shoes or anything like that.”

Saturday’s signing capped off a whirlwind month — one that included witnessing his dad’s first hole-in-one, on Oakland Hills Country Club’s North Course, the day before he flew to Arizona for his physical on July 15. Asked what was more exciting, seeing the ace or signing Saturday, Mooney said “that’s a tough question,” but conceded if the ace had been his, it’d be a tougher question. Alex doesn’t have one, though he has done something more rare on the golf course: this fall, he made an albatross (double-eagle) on a par 5, holing out from 175 yards.

He lamented both his dad’s ace (they were tied in their match, and dad went on to win easily after that ace) and his own double-eagle (“I was shooting like 103 at the time; if I could give it to someone more deserving, I would”).

It’s not immediately clear what the plan is for Mooney the rest of this season, though for now, he’ll stay in Goodyear and work out. There’s a chance he’ll be sent to a minor-league outpost at some point before the season ends. Then everything really will become real — knowing that everything worked out, and he did it his way.

“I’m happy that I can finally just focus on baseball,” said Mooney, noting he does plan to finish school, though he’s not sure about the logistics yet. “I finally have the one focus, and I can put my all into that.”

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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