Former UK baseball player shares message of positivity with Brooks Place residents

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, June 6, 2023

In a season that’s taken many by surprise, the University of Kentucky’s baseball team has found its way to a 40-19 record through Monday, including a winning record in the challenging Southeastern Conference (SEC) for the first time since 2017.

Last Tuesday an athlete-turned-coach with his own story was in Winchester.

Alex Degen, a former pitcher for the Wildcats who now serves as the first base coach, spoke at Rosemary C. Brooks Place.

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“This is a tight-knit community. Just the fact that everybody knows everybody, I love that,” Degen said. “That wasn’t something I had back home. It wasn’t something that really was ground into my mind. That’s what I think about when I think of Winchester.”

Originally from New Jersey, the 6’8” 210-lb. Degen was recruited to Lexington as a pitcher, where he went 3-1 with one save in 32 appearances.

However, after tearing his rotator cuff – an injury that’s especially troublesome for pitchers – Degen’s time on the athletic field changed.

“A full circle moment I had was when I was told I couldn’t play baseball anymore when I had this injury,” he said. “It was clear after a year of rehabbing I could still pitch, but not to the extent of what I was able to do when I was younger.”

However, Degen had a surprising revelation after leaving what was undoubtedly a tough meeting.

“I left [Coach Mingione’s] office and I was checking something on my phone and I saw the first voicemail that Coach Mingione left me in 2017 when I was a junior in high school,” he said. “I came here thinking I was just going to be a baseball player. Hearing that voicemail from 2017, we’re so much more than just baseball players. Everybody sees us in uniform, and they see us on the field, and they see us doing our thing. That’s what people on the outside see us as, but we’re all so much more than that.”

While Degen continues to stay involved in the game now that he’s the first-base coach for the Wildcats, he also continues to shine off the field.

As a Christian who is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Degen has participated in more than 50 speaking engagements, often speaking to youth who look up to athletes such as himself.

“I love FCA so much because when I go and speak to a high school or middle school, we’re using sports as a platform to propel kids on to do more,” Degen said. “Everybody needs that community.”

City Commissioner Shannon Cox and Tim Janes helped set up the opportunity at Brooks Place.

“He did a great job over there. People were impressed,” Cox said. “There was a lady who wanted to come, and she couldn’t come, and one of the aides over there took Alex to her room to see her and talk to her. He didn’t have to do that. That’s special.”

However, Degen reiterated that sports are just one of many talents the Wildcats offer. As such, he looks to continue using his message positively.

“It’s a cool platform to have,” he said. “While I’m still here and getting the opportunities to do stuff like this, I’m just taking every opportunity.”