By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Many pro baseball players were born in Florida, Texas, Arizona or California. There’s an advantage to growing up and playing ball in warm climates.
Curve second baseman Stephen Alemais grew up in New York City and still spends a lot of time there, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“A lot of people say they don’t know how I live there,” Alemais said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “It’s too fast, too much going on, they say.
“But, when you grow up there, you become accustomed to it.”
Kids go to school on subways and buses, many people don’t have automobiles and there are hundreds of asphalt basketball courts. Alemais went to All Hallows High School in the Bronx where he was a standout shooting guard.
“New York City is big on high school basketball,” he said. “I grew up playing a lot of sports but baseball and basketball were my favorites. I think it’s good to play multiple sports when you’re young. I love basketball, but baseball was my best sport.
“I grew up a block away from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx,” he noted, “So, of course, I was a huge Derek Jeter fan. Who better to have as a role model than the face of the Yankees and the face of baseball?”
Not surprisingly, Alemais wears uniform number 2 – the same as Jeter did.
“I’ll wear 2 as long as I can,” he said.
Alemais went to Elev 8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Florida for his senior year in high school.
“I tore the labrum in my left shoulder as a junior and it kept me out a lot. I went to showcases but I had to bat left-handed,” explained Alemais, a natural right-handed hitter. “I got a scholarship there – it’s kind of like IMG Academy – and I was able to start baseball earlier and get ready for the draft.”
Alemais was selected by the Pirates in the third round of the 2016 MLB draft out of Tulane University where he led the Green Wave in batting average, hits and stolen bases as a sophomore and junior. He had a .293 average in 161 college games over three years.
Entering the 2018 season, Alemais had played shortstop in 113 of 114 pro games.
“I asked (Pirate infield instructor) Gary Green why they were moving me to second base,” Alemais noted. “He said ‘do you want to stay in the minors or go to the bigs at second base, shortstop or third base?’ I said ‘put me in the outfield.’”
So that led to Alemais becoming the Curve’s second baseman.
“When you have a guy like Cole Tucker at shortstop, you don’t mind making the move, especially if it helps me to play in the big leagues,” Alemais said. “With Ke’Bryan Hayes at third, this is one of the best infields I’ve ever been part of.”
Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison spent a few days with the Curve on a rehab assignment and Alemais took advantage of the big leaguer’s presence.
“I picked his brain a lot, and he gave me a lot of advice about what to do in slumps and when you’re having bad days,” Alemais said. “I’m building a relationship with him, and I’m striving to be like him.”
Curve manager Michael Ryan said Alemais is adapting to the move to second base very well.
“He’s a very good shortstop,” Ryan said, “but when you’ve got guys like Tucker and (Kevin) Newman, the organization thought his best chance to get to the big leagues and play every day was to move to second base.
“He’s adapted well and hasn’t had many issues with the double play,” Ryan said. “He’s very athletic so I’m not surprised.”