Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Fennelly: Humble Alex Faedo looks to be next Alonso product to go high in draft

GAINESVILLE — His life will change today. You wouldn't know it by him. Alex Faedo, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-handed pitcher, former Alonso High star and University of Florida ace, likely will be taken in the first round of baseball's draft. It could mean a signing bonus in the millions.

Now, about the Bucs draft …

"I'm a diehard," Faedo said. "(O.J.) Howard's a freak athlete. I hear the safety from A&M is pretty good, too. I'm a big fan of Jameis, even though he's an FSU guy. I'm happy they're on Hard Knocks. I think they've got an edge to them."

Faedo sat in the press box at Florida's McKethan Stadium after practice. The 21-year-old pointed beyond the rightfield fence at some apartments. He shares space there with three Gators teammates, routinely thrashing them at NBA2K. Faedo would rather talk about video games than his baseball future.

He would rather talk about how the Gators are a win away from their third consecutive College World Series. He would rather talk about how he's watching all the old Game of Thrones episodes to get ready for the new season. Or about his beloved Rays. Or his talented teammates. Or any draft but his own.

"I know more about the NBA draft right now," Faedo said, "because I'm all about my Orlando Magic."

The subject returned to Faedo.

He grinned.

"It's just kind of annoying when you hear other people talk about themselves," Faedo said. "There are so many other things to talk about. I don't want to come off as someone who's cocky, so I just try to stay low with it."

• • •

Faedo's mother, Kristie Donovan, a sixth-grade teacher, said her oldest son did a drawing in kindergarten on what he was going to be when he grew up. The artwork and spelling were adorable.

"He wanted to be a scientist or a professional baseball player," Donovan said.

"That scientist thing is done," Faedo said with a smile.

Mid 90s fastball, sinister slider and a changeup. That's the new science. Faedo, a junior, is 7-2 this season with a 2.60 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 107 innings. No fewer than six Florida pitchers were selected in last year's draft, including A.J. Puk, who went sixth overall. Faedo fits that mold.

"He's in his draft year, coming off a summer where he pitched for (USA Baseball's collegiate national team) as their No. 1," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Sometimes it's hard to handle those expectations. But he's handled it like a champ, like a true adult. More often than not, kids don't handle their draft year. Alex has done it as well as anyone I've seen. There are no guarantees in life, but I think he's going to pitch for a long, long time."

Landy Faedo, longtime baseball coach at Alonso High, where he coached his son, is finally used to his son potentially being a first-round pick. It's a baseball family. Landy grew up in the West Tampa Little League and played catcher for Jefferson High, Hillsborough Community College and Saint Leo University. His cousin Lenny Faedo was a first-round pick of the Twins in 1978 and played five seasons in the majors.

Still, Faedo's rise caught his father off guard at first.

"When he was first on my team at Alonso, and he made it his freshman year, I thought hopefully he gets to play by his senior year," Landy said. "I thought maybe he can go to junior college. … Maybe he'd get a scholarship."

He smiled.

"Know who knew first? I didn't spot it, but he did. Alex was throwing one day, and Jose told me, 'Coach, he's going to throw 95, 97. He's going to make it. He's got it. I'm telling you.' I didn't see it. Jose saw."

Jose Fernandez.

• • •

Alex Faedo said he was in middle school when he met Jose Fernandez for the first time. Landy says he knew Fernandez was going to throw in the majors the first time he saw him have a catch. First time. Fernandez, having arrived from Cuba, joined the Alonso team. Alex was a freshman on the varsity when Jose was a senior, bound for greatness. They won a state title together.

"Obviously, he's a hero to me," Faedo said. "I've never met anyone like Jose. Loud. Funny. Full of life. Worked really hard. It was amazing when he hit the home run in the state semifinals. He's sprinting around the bases, then running along the fence. He almost thought he was too tired to finish the game. That passion. His compete. I think he had fun every time he was out there."

"Jose took him under his wing," Landy said. "He paid special attention to Alex."

You'll see Jose sometimes when Faedo is pitching, when he has made a big pitch to escape a jam. He'll turn and hop. Maybe a yell. He lets go. Jose always did.

"I didn't have any passion like that, probably, until I saw him," Faedo said. "Jose always pushed me. I'd be in middle school and he'd say we've got to go for a run. He'd tell me you can't take one day off. You're never going to get it back. You can't throw away days."

Faedo was in Gainesville last September when he heard of the 24-year-old Fernandez's death.

"You kind of like waited to wake up from a bad dream," Faedo said.

• • •

His parents are already proud.

"We're lucky," Landy said. "He's a good man."

"A caring person," Kristie said.

Jose Fernandez was the 14th selection in the 2011 draft by the Marlins. Faedo will get the word today. Today is a dream come true. When he signs, he will earn a lot of money. Today is a dream come true.

"We've pounded it into his head," Landy said. "When that time comes, don't go spending that money. Put it away."

Alex's mother isn't worried about that.

"He still wears the same shorts from high school," Kristie said with a laugh.

Baseball. Go eat. Chipotle. Maybe sushi. Video games. Hang out. Sounds about right.

"The new Prison Break. I'm pretty pumped about that," Faedo said.

He returned to the subject of the draft.

"June 17th. The Magic are ready to take off. They have the sixth pick. They're ready, man."

No, the other draft …

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