At Minnehaha Academy's gymnasium, shortstop Alexander Fedje-Johnson worked out during drills.] Richard Tsong-Taatariiemail@example.com
Alex Fedje-Johnson learned to pitch by throwing at a chalk strike zone his father drew by the elementary school across the street. He honed his reflexes diving for baseballs on his concrete driveway.
Those training methods are at the root of the Minnehaha Academy senior’s baseball education and well-rounded skill set. Fedje-Johnson is starting at shortstop for the Redhawks, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A to start the season, and is one of team’s top two pitchers.
“As close to a five-tool guy as we’ve had,” Minnehaha Academy coach Scott Glenn said. “He’ll hit for an average, he’ll hit for power, he’ll steal bases, he’ll strike out a lot of guys pitching and he’s very solid defensively.”
Fedje-Johnson was 5-0 as a starting pitcher last season, when the Redhawks finished as the Class 2A state runner-up. He carried a 1.37 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 46 innings, and hit .385 with 19 RBI.
He’ll bat third this season after moving from third base to shortstop. The uncommitted senior hopes to be a middle infielder in college — and a hitter.
“I’ll take a walk, but if I have a couple walks in a game, I start to get a little antsy,” Fedje-Johnson said. “I go up there looking to hit the ball hard every time.”
He throws a four-seam fastball, a curveball he learned from former teammate and current Lipscomb University lefthander John Pryor, and a change-up he plans to mix in more often this year. He occasionally throws a two-seam fastball.
“He’s got a mid-80s, maybe a little higher, fastball, which for 2A, that’s going to be tough to hit,” Glenn said.
Fedje-Johnson is one of two regular starters returning from the Redhawks’ pitching staff last year. Also back is senior Jesse Retzlaff, who was 9-2 in 2015 with a 1.46 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 57 innings.
Retzlaff also uses four- and two-seam fastballs, a change-up and a curveball that arcs downward.
“We’re looking for contact outs,” Retzlaff said. “None of us are really going to try and blow it by you.”
The two righthanders, who were both named to the 2015 Class 2A all-tournament team, lead a nine-person pitching staff this year. Consistency on the mound is key as the team puts new players in four of the top five spots of its lineup.
Senior center fielder Alex Wolpert will move to the leadoff spot after hitting .298 with 10 steals as the No. 9 hitter last season. Junior Simon Huyck will hit behind him. Glenn is hoping the combination will set up Fedje-Johnson well.
He’s no longer diving on concrete, but he said that mentality defines his team.
“We’re aggressive, we’re loud, we like to play greasy baseball as we like to call it. We like to get dirty,” Fedje-Johnson said. “That’s our squad.”
Ben Gotz is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.