Ramseur's Alec Allred, chasing his baseball dream, ended up in Michigan on (very) short notice

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/30/20

RAMSEUR — Three weeks ago, an 11th-hour text sent Alec Allred on an impromptu 11-hour drive north.

He was relaxing at home that night, mostly resigned to the fact he wouldn’t play a third …

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Ramseur's Alec Allred, chasing his baseball dream, ended up in Michigan on (very) short notice

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Posted

RAMSEUR — Three weeks ago, an 11th-hour text sent Alec Allred on an impromptu 11-hour drive north.

He was relaxing at home that night, mostly resigned to the fact he wouldn’t play a third season of professional baseball this fall. Earlier this year, Allred had scored a major opportunity: a contract with the Brisbane Bandits, one of the top teams in the Australian Baseball League.

But, in the midst of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, his visa had been denied.

Allred, 25, was back to square one. And with all of Minor League Baseball and most independent leagues shuttered for 2020, he was running out of options quickly — until his iPhone buzzed with a message from an old colleague, Justin Orenduff, who works for the United Shore Professional Baseball League.

“How soon can you be in Michigan?” he said.

“I guess I can get there tomorrow, but Thursday would be a little easier,” Allred said.

Two days later, he was off to join the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers.

“There wasn’t really a strategy to it,” Allred said Monday. “It was more just living by the day.”

In a phone interview conducted on the road, as he finished up the final hours of his return drive to North Carolina with his wife, Lexie, Allred said he had plenty of fond memories from his unexpected three-week stint up north in the USPBL, which completed its season Sunday.

“From a playing perspective, it was really high level of baseball,” he said. “Plus, being one of the few guys around the country who got an opportunity to play (right now), it was really cool.”

Allred has plenty of ties to Chatham County and the surrounding area. He graduated from Faith Christian School in Ramseur and played college baseball at Division III William Peace University in Raleigh.

He also works as head baseball instructor at The Factory — the downtown Siler City batting cage facility his father, Reggie, owns — and the director of operations for the summertime Old North State League.

While teaching the game to others, though, Allred is still seriously pursuing his own pro career.

He had some late round buzz and worked out for a few MLB organizations coming out of William Peace in 2018, but Allred ultimately went undrafted. Luckily, one independent league still took interest.

Orenduff, the USPBL director of operations, used to work in Durham and caught a few of Allred’s games in nearby Raleigh. He helped facilitate Allred’s first pro contract with the league’s Westside Woolly Mammoths in the summer of 2018, but a hand injury almost immediately derailed Allred’s season.

By the time he felt healthy and ready to go last fall after surgery and a year of rehab, all the independent leagues were already wrapping up their 2019 seasons. So, instead, he reinvented himself.

Allred spent the entire winter training intensively in a new position, catcher, which some MLB teams saw as the best fit for him in pre-draft workouts. Local coach Benji Johnson, a Northwood alum who played the position for UNC and later in the Atlanta Braves organization, helped Allred tremendously.

“I picked it up pretty well,” Allred said. “I love it. I kind of wish I’d been doing it my whole life.”

The change was a fruitful one — after Allred had a productive summer season at catcher for the semi-pro East Coast Weekenders, he got his offer from the Bandits in Australia. And after visa issues extinguished that chance, the Beavers took a chance on him, too, in waning days of their season.

Allred got the late-night text from Orenduff on a Tuesday, drove to Michigan on a Thursday and appeared in his first game for the Beavers on a Saturday, after passing the league’s coronavirus protocol. He lived with a host family and earned three weeks of pay at the rate of a low-level MLB minor leaguer.

“So, basically, hardly anything,” Allred joked.

Brought in primarily as a reserve catcher, Allred didn’t see the field much. He started at catcher twice over the Beavers’ final four regular-season games and got a few at-bats. But he didn’t mind: Allred was excited to work with a professional catching coordinator regardless.

Plus, when he did get live reps, they were no joke — the four-team USPBL featured its fair share of MLB minor leaguers who had their teams’ blessings to play in independent leagues. The talent level was high.

“I got to be around some pretty high level draft picks and special athletes,” Allred said.

Last weekend, he watched eagerly from the dugout as the Beavers won consecutive elimination games Friday and Saturday to advance to the USPBL championship game against the Utica Unicorns.

Birmingham Bloomfield “had the game won,” Allred said, until its depleted pitching staff allowed five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and ended up losing, 11-9.

After the game ended Sunday, Allred fired up his Dodge Ram 2500 truck and headed back home to Ramseur. (Lexie flew up to Michigan to watch the postseason and drive back with him.)

They stopped in Charleston, West Virginia, around midnight, spent the night in a hotel and finished the last leg of their journey Monday morning with a steady stream of music and podcasts.

Allred was a little worn out, sure, but grateful for the three-week whirlwind — even if southeast Michigan was a little different than the Land Down Under, and he ended up a Beaver instead of a Bandit.

“I’d hung up the idea of playing this year because nobody was playing,” he said, “so this was a good opportunity for me.”

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at cfowler@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.

 

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