Alex Call didn’t have any trouble adjusting to Division I college baseball. Even with a torn meniscus.
The River Falls grad was just finishing up a successful fall season and earning a starting spot in the Ball State outfield for the spring when he injured his knee. Unaware of the severity of the injury at the time, Call didn’t let it hinder his freshman season. Instead, he played in all but four games and led the team with a .354 batting average.
“It affected my explosiveness a little bit, but I was able to still hit really well and play in the outfield,” Call said.
Call joined the Express at the end of last summer on a temporary deal after earning all-state honors as a senior at River Falls. Call had hoped to spend the whole summer playing at Carson Park, but after Ball State’s season ended, he took the time to get his pesky knee injury taken care of.
“I was out about a month,” Call said. “Then I told (Express manager Dale) Varsho I was ready. I had to wait three to four weeks until there was a spot for me. Thankfully, there was a spot.”
Call joined the Express on July 26, adding a much-needed right-handed bat to a lineup full of lefties. He’s picked up right where he left off in college, hitting .310 with a double and six RBIs in nine games, helping keep Eau Claire within 1½ games of first place in the North Division with six to play.
Call said the pitching in the Northwoods League is comparable to what he sees in the competitive Mid American Conference. And although he’s loving everything about Ball State, the high school star originally hoped to play for a more high-profile school, but he couldn’t do anything about the winter-shortened Wisconsin seasons.
“Being from the north in Wisconsin, same with (Express teammates) Tyler Hermann and Brady Burzynski, it’s tough to get recruited,” Call said. “I vividly remember going down to Auburn. I played really well, and they told me they’d love to have me, but since I’m from the north, I haven’t played as many games as everyone else. They wanted me to go to a junior college for a year and prove to them I could play.”
Call didn’t want to wait to go to a Division I school. In fact, he wanted to go to one at which he could play right away, part of the reason he ended up at Ball State.
“I knew that their center fielder had graduated and there would be some spots in the outfield this year,” Call said. “I knew I’d have to earn it, but it sounded like in my visits down there I’d have a chance to compete for a spot, and that’s all I really wanted.”
Call has good pop in his bat for a 6-foot, 185-pounder, hitting 15 doubles this spring. And he’s certainly capable of hitting the ball out of the park, something he did a few times during batting practice Monday at Carson Park before rain washed out the game. But ultimately, power isn’t what his game is all about. The key is consistently putting the ball in play and using his speed, which was limited by his knee injury.
“I’m trying to get back to stealing a few bags, regaining that explosiveness,” Call said. “That’s really going to be the biggest factor for me in the future.”
A healthy Call is looking forward to what figures to be a promising sophomore season at Ball State. But first, he’s ready to contribute to the Express’ playoff push at Carson Park, a place he became very familiar with playing against Eau Claire North and Memorial while in high school.
“It’s always fun to finish up with six home games and play in front of the fans and try to make the playoffs,” Call said. “We’ll some how it goes. Hopefully we’ll get a little better weather and make a good last week of it.”