Face in the Crowd
The Transient Existence of a Minor Leaguer
In college, baseball was a release. Here, it’s a job.” So says Alec Keller, outfielder for the Harrisburg Senators. His brief summary of the difference between amateur and professional baseball would not be news to most sports enthusiasts. However, there is so much more that defines what the 25-year-old man does for a living.
This is Keller’s first full season with Harrisburg, the Washington Nationals’ AA affiliate, and he is enjoying it. Previous stops included Auburn, Hagerstown and Potomac. “This is the best atmosphere in the Nationals’ system,” he says. “We almost always have good crowds for the games, and that’s a motivation. And having the stadium on the island is cool.”
Although Keller grew up in Richmond, Virginia, he sees little difference between the people and culture of Richmond and Harrisburg. “It’s not the deep south, and there are a lot of transplanted northerners there,” he says.
To give players more of a stable existence, a common practice in the minors is to have them reside with host families. Keller stays with State Representative Sheryl Delozier and her family. But his schedule does not facilitate much social interaction. “When we have night games, I seldom get home before 11,” he says, “so I don’t see much of the Deloziers.”
“I get up around seven and have a light breakfast that might include yogurt, chocolate milk and a power bar,” says Keller. “Then I’ll go back to bed and get up later, have lunch on the way to the stadium and do some lifting there or sometimes, at LA Fitness.”
Keller’s activities in the afternoon prior to game time comprise stretching, batting practice, shagging balls and throwing to the bases and then some R&R in the hot tub or shower to stay loose. The club provides both a pre-game and a post-game meal spread.
Baseball and indoor track were Keller’s athletic interests in high school. He continued his education at Princeton, graduating with honors in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. He is not the prototypical professional athlete. Another honor was added when he was selected as the 2014 Ivy League Baseball Player of the Year.
After four years of college and another four seasons in pro ball, Keller confesses to being “old” at 25. But he is taking his career one day at a time. “I just want to see how good I can be at baseball,” he says. “I can’t get bogged down thinking about the big picture.”
So, what happens if baseball does not pan out? “It all depends on how long my time in the game lasts,” replies Keller. “If I’m injured tomorrow and can’t play anymore, then I’ll get some work experience. If I play another five or six years, or longer, before giving it up, then I will probably go back to school for an additional degree before seeking employment.”
When he is off duty, Keller favors movies, a good book or local attractions. “I recently visited the battlefield sites and museums in Gettysburg. That was awesome. I’m kind of an introvert,” he admits. “I don’t mind being around people, of course, but it’s nice to have some time to myself.”