Alex Vesia (Photo by Jordan McPherson/Miami Herald)

For Alexander Victor Vesia, baseball wasn’t always a sure thing. His thing could’ve been literally anything.

“I had a counselor and he asked me what’s your goal? What do you want to do with your life? And my answer was I don’t really know,” Vesia told Erik Oas last season. “It was my freshman year, I didn’t even know what I was going to do the next day.”

That summer, Vesia broke into pitching after school for Steele Canyon High’s JV squad. Quickly, Vesia fell in love. A summer later, he was determined to pitch for his school’s A squad.

“My sophomore year I really wanted to make varsity. I felt like I had a good tryout but they put me on JV,” Vesia said. “It wasn’t what I wanted, but I told myself I’d work hard and by the end of the year, I’d be on varsity.”

For the first time, but certainly not the last, Vesia’s dedication paid off, serving as a fitting berth and a perfect precursor to his professional career.

“The last game of the season, my coach brought me into the office and asked me, “Do you wanna start?” I was like, “Yeah, absolutely,” Vesia recalled. “I ended up going 5, 6, maybe 7 innings. After that, being out there and feeling the small crowd we had which was big for me, I was like, I want to do this. I wanted to help my parents out with paying for college and getting a degree. But also, I wanted to play baseball.”

Four years later, Vesia had both: a degree and, via a 313.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 249/106 K/BB stat line at Cal State East Bay, a future in baseball. The program record holder in strikeouts, wins and innings pitched, Vesia settled on his ultimate passion and entered the 2018 MLB Draft. Thanks to advice imparted on him by his collegiate coach, Vesia knew he wasn’t going to be highly selected, but that he shouldn’t let that decide his future.

“Before the draft, Mike Cummins sat me down in his office and he was like, “You’re not gonna make your money out of the draft, but you’re gonna make your money in the big leagues,”” Vesia said last month. “I just wanted the opportunity.“

After being signed in the 17th round and breaking into pro ball with a 1.35 ERA via a 1.14 WHIP and 38/7 K/BB for two affiliates in 2018, the exclusive reliever jumped from A to A+ to AA last season, posting a collective 1.76 ERA by way of a 0.94 WHIP and 100/19 K/BB in 66.2 IP. At seasons end, Vesia was invited to participate in the Arizona Fall League. Partaking in nine contests and 10.1 IP very close to his hometown in the San Diego suburbs, Vesia didn’t allow an earned run and struck out 16 while walking only two.

The Marlins took notice of the Vesia’s ability to succeed at multiple levels and against top prospects by inviting him to spring training. Through 6 IP, he hadn’t given up a charged tally. To date, Vesia hasn’t let up an earned run since July 13th, 2019, a streak spanning a total of 35 innings. But don’t tell him about it. As a matter of fact, leave numbers completely out of your conversation because Alex isn’t interested. That disinterest doesn’t stem from any sort of superstition or fear of recourse. Instead, Vesia has always viewed his stats as a distraction and a hindrance against keeping the game as streamlined as possible, the strategy that has always served him well.

“In my freshman year of high school my parents would text me telling me you have this ERA, this many strikeouts. Towards the end of that season I was like, don’t tell me that. Because when I’d be out on the mound I’d be thinking about it. So it’s a big thing of mine: I don’t look at any of that stuff.”

No matter what his personal stats looked like the day week or month before, Vesia takes the mound every time with the most uncompounded plan of attack, faith in his stuff and his focus one and only one number: the one in his opponent’s runs column.

“Being a bulldog out in the mound, grinding through one pitch, one at bat, one inning at a time. I try to simplify it as best as I can. The simpler it is for me, the better. I’m not very complex with my thinking,” Vesia said. “I have one focal point which is the top of the scoreboard at every field. Other than that, the game is the same. That’s been my vision: to get there by trusting my process. Working day in and day out out on the backfields and watching it transfer into games.”

From the moment he began garnering professional interest, Vesia made all of those who came out to watch him a solemn promise:

“I told every scout, give me the opportunity and I’m gonna run with it,” he recalled.

Vesia hasn’t ran with the opportunity the Marlins have given him — he’s absolutely flown with it, mowing through the competition wherever he’s pitched. Last season, the fastball/change up/slider artist began the season in Clinton. Three months later, he was pitching in A+. Eighteen innings on the mound later, he got the call to AA Jacksonville. According to Vesia, that’s when the reality of his accomplishments hit and things got put into perspective.

“I told my dad and he was like, “Dude, you’re gonna have to hit now!” That’s where it got more real to me because in AA, AAA and the bigs you gotta do that,” Vesia said. “Pitching in AA in front of bigger crowds, I loved it.”

On top of making the jump to AA fluidly  holding down a perfect ERA in nine appearances, Vesia provided the Jumbo Shrimp with a walk-off win in his first career plate appearance.

Despite having his offseason shortened twice, Vesia met each of those assignments, Arizona and big league camp, with the same overtly-tenacious attitude and the same message to himself that he’s carried with him his entire career. He would not have had any part of the past twelve months any other way.

“Going to the Fall League seeing top prospects — I was like, “Bring it.” I just told myself to make the most of the opportunity. Then getting the call to big league camp I told myself the same,” Vesia said. “I can’t complain any day of the week. I love what I do.”

The Marlins clearly love what Vesia does, as well. All the way through the suspension of spring training Vesia, who has just barely 100 innings of pro ball under his belt, was still battling for a spot in the Marlins’ bullpen. While the club would have to make a few tough decisions and create room on the 40-man roster in order to get the non-roster invitee into that spot, it is apparently a task Miami is pondering performing. Even if Vesia does begin the year in the minors, barring injury, it’s hard to imagine he will be there long.

On the precipice of realizing his big league dream, the newly-turned 24-year-old is rightfully impassioned — impassioned but as confident and as focused as ever.

“There isn’t anything I feel like I can’t do. My mom always told me I’m a man on a mission. I truly believe that,” Vesia said holding back a tear. “I get a little emotional about it because this is what I want to do: I want to play on the biggest stage with the guys behind me and we’re competing. Its the coolest feeling in the world and it’s great to see hard work pay off.”

If his history has taught us anything, no matter how soon that challenge approaches Vesia, he will stare it down with an unyielding gaze, attack it and put it down.

Get ready, baseball. The Bulldog cometh.