Former UK athlete shares uplifting message at Rotary Club

Published 5:15 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

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Standing at 6’8” tall, it’s not difficult to see how New Jersey native Alex Degen would be physically imposing to opponents. 

However, the former University of Kentucky pitcher shared a different sort of message on Wednesday to those attending the Rotary Club of Winchester meeting at 410 Boone Avenue. 

“I wanted to spend some more time talking about an organization that’s very near and dear to me…and that is FCA, which is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes,” said Degen, who serves as an Ambassador for FCA. “FCA has played a huge role in my life and as a student athlete in my development.” 

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Degen, a two-time state champion in New Jersey and recipient of many individual accolades, was recruited to the University of Kentucky as a pitcher during the early years of current Head Coach Nick Mingione. 

Degen acknowledges that, along with being personally skilled in athletics, it was a defining characteristic for him growing up. 

“Playing a sport was always a part of my identity. That was a part of who I was,” he said. “I never really got tested athletically when I was in high school, and this identity that I had in sports was really firm and really solid.” 

Degen would eventually excel to the point of having a professional sports agent, working on his behalf to try to reach out to major league scouts.

However, during college, events would change. 

Eventually, a shoulder injury would derail Degen’s professional baseball ambitions. 

“I was hoping to have a good [senior] year and make a case for myself to get drafted,” he said. “It just didn’t work out. It was all coming to an end, and I’d be lying…if I said this was an easy time in my life because it surely was not.” 

However, there was a blessing in disguise. 

During the course of receiving platelet rich plasma treatment, Degen came across Winchester City Commissioner Shannon Cox, who was also receiving treatment. 

Before long, Degen found himself engaged with FCA. 

The experience offered him renewed perspective. 

“I was focused on the glamor and convenience and how I could go pro and really just viewed UK and baseball as a means to get me to where I wanted to go,” Degen said. “When I think about this now, it reminds me a lot of the story of ancient Israelites throughout history of the Old Testament [and] how they were enslaved by the nation of Egypt, and in the eyes of…their enslavers the Israelites had value in only one thing and that was their work.” 

Degen also referenced the New Testament, specifically Matthew 6:21, which states  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” 

“Growing up, my treasure was simply in the things that I did, especially in the game of baseball,” he said. “One of the greatest things that stuck out to me as I began [to] read my Bible and dive more deep into the Word was God’s consistent command to just rest [on] the Sabbath. That was the opposite of what I believed and that was the opposite of the way I was wired.” 

In addition to different understanding he says has come from reading the Bible, Degen credits Coach Nick Mingione with providing guidance. 

He now speaks often representing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the international non-profit Christian sports ministry founded in 1954 with locations throughout the United States. 

“I’m so thankful for the impact that Fellowship of Christian Athletes and [coaches] and people all across the state and the country have for investing in student athletes,” he said. “It’s more than just how hard you throw a baseball and how fast you can run with the football.” 

Degen, who has worked for UK Athletics’ Marketing Department and starts a position with the Lexington Leadership Foundation on Monday, April 1, looks forward to additional opportunities to share a positive message. 

“There’s always opportunities to get more involved and we do that if you’re interested,” he said. “I’m always willing to come share.” 

In other FCA news, the Central KY FCA Victory Night event will take place on Sunday, April 21st, at 6:00 p.m. at Immanuel Baptist Church at 3100 Tates Creek Road in Lexington. 

Current University of Kentucky basketball player Reed Sheppard will serve as the guest speaker.