It’s as easy as hitting a baseball off a tee – so why not just tee it up and swing for the fences.
Greenhills senior Alex Winning is a winner! The senior has been winning on and off the baseball field for years, but let’s focus more on the field since that’s where we find Alex these days. And all Alex and his teammates have been doing this season is winning.
Alex is a four-year starter and his third as the Gryphons’ starting catcher.
“At the end of Alex’s sophomore season I told him that our senior (Josh Hendrian) would be a captain along with Alex and Aidan, two juniors,” said Greenhills Coach Thomas Ward. “I don’t think Alex expected the responsibility, but in my mind it was a clear decision.”
Ward knew Alex would not only “catch” on quickly, but in time excel at one of the most important positions on the field.
“Alex is always the hardest working player on the team,” Ward says. “He is more reserved and unassuming than most captains out there, but he is a kid that has the respect of everyone he interacts with.
“The Greenhills baseball program gives out only one player award at the end of each season. It is important that our players understand the weight of our single award and what an honor it is to be the recipient. The award is called the ‘Hustle Award’ and is given to the player who contributes the most to the team through effort, dedication, sportsmanship, leadership and teamwork.”
Alex won the award as a junior, his first year as a captain.
“I think it speaks so highly to his dedication, effort and impact on the team that the coaches were unanimous in his selection,” Ward said.
Alex is the first to admit his baseball career at Greenhills didn’t exactly begin with a bang – let alone a seeing-eye single. “My very first year on the team was pretty rough to say the least,” Alex says. “I think our regular season record was 2-19, and that was after winning the first game we played.”
Alex’s freshman year was his first time playing baseball since he had gotten spinal fusion surgery to fix his scoliosis – so it was a bit of an adjustment period.
“I had to make the jump to facing juniors/seniors pitching while also trying to rebuild the strength of the muscles in my back,” he said. “The surgery I had required me to get metal rods/screws in my spine to straighten it, so there were a lot of shifting muscles, and I lost a lot of strength when it came to my throws and swings.”
Alex began that season as the starting left fielder. An injury to the starting catcher forced Alex behind the plate sooner than expected.
“We lost a lot of games that year, but I was able to learn a lot in preparation for becoming the starting catcher my sophomore year,” he says.
Last year, the Gryphons won Districts and Alex earned a spot on the All-District team.
“With only one senior last year, all of us juniors knew we were going to have to step it up and become the main contributors to the team’s offense and defense,” he said. “To have won our fourth District title ever, and to be named All-District felt like a bit of validation for us.”
Last year’s juniors are this year’s seniors and the Gryphons started strong and continue to play impressive baseball. Alex says their success is because they have each other’s backs when things get challenging.
“We go to a small school and know each other really well, and I think that translates onto the field,” he said. “If someone makes a mistake there’s never any tension between teammates because we pick each other up, and it’s all thanks to the friendships we all have with each other.”
The goal is simple – yes, THE goal.
“Our goal is a state title,” he says. “The other seniors and I have been looking forward to this season since eighth grade when we realized just how many skilled ballplayers were in our class. To shoot for anything less than the state title with the players we have and with the work we’ve put in would be selling ourselves short.”
When Alex was short, he enjoyed watching his older brother play baseball. The hook was set and he jumped at the chance when he could step onto a baseball field.
“He’s three years older than me, and after watching him play tee ball, I wanted to do the same. So as soon as I turned 4, I got started,” Alex said. “I’ve stuck with it because I enjoy how team oriented the game is. In other sports you could easily go the whole game without getting an opportunity to even touch the ball if you only pass it to one person, but in baseball, everyone gets at-bats and hits could go anywhere on defense.”
Alex plays travel baseball for the Southeast Michigan Renegades out of the Commerce Township area. And while catching certainly has unique challenges, he wouldn’t trade his catcher’s mitt for any other glove on the diamond.
“The most challenging part of catching is the responsibilities that come with the position,” he says. “I’ve had multiple coaches in the past talk to me about the position, and the analogy that always comes up is that being a catcher is like being a quarterback. Catcher is the only position with the whole field in front of him, so a lot of the play calls and communication have to come from the catcher.”
And he has more than caught on. Back to Coach Ward.
“Behind the plate, Alex is as good as they get,” he says. “He’s an excellent receiver and controls the run game as well as knowing the ins and outs of each of our pitchers.”
And then there is off-the-field Alex.
“He’s simply a good person,” Ward says. “There’s not an ounce of judgement or meanness to him. He’s a wonderful kid. He’s able to reach all players because of this. They all respect him and look up to him and he’s the first guy in the dugout getting everyone else into the game and keeping the energy level high.”
Alex, the son of Bob Winning and Cathy Renaud, has a 3.92 ERA and will be heading across town next year for college. “This fall I will be attending the University of Michigan and will be studying Computer Science and Statistics, and I will be in the LSA Honors Program,” he said.
But before college there is one more goal to accomplish at Greenhills. Yes, THE goal. And with a player who works hard, is a great team leader and whose last name is “Winning,” it’s a goal that seems to be within reach.