Family matters for Alex Cain.
The Oregon senior signed a letter of intent Nov. 14 to play college baseball at Eastern Illinois University. That’s where his mother, Julie, got her higher education.
And members of his extended family who live in Mattoon, just a 10-minute drive from the campus in Charleston, will get to see Cain pitch for the first time in almost 10 years.
As for his parents? Well, they’re used to 4-hour road trips. Only usually their son was in the car with them, en route to a ballgame for his travel team.
“We’re very close,” Cain said. “I’d spend 4 or 5 hours in the car with them every weekend for tournaments. There was usually someone from a college at my games.”
While weighing Eastern against a couple of other Division-I schools in Illinois and another in Michigan, Cain consulted his parents. But he said they ultimately put the decision firmly in his hands.
“But I know they favored Eastern, so they could make the trip down to see me play,” Cain said.
There were several factors in Cain’s decision. He says the biggest tipping point was EIU putting an offer on the table before any other school. He also wanted to play every day, not just on days when he mans the mound.
“I haven’t ever really sat out in my high school career, except for injuries,” Cain said. “I was really hoping to go someplace where I would play every day. At Eastern, they told me I have a very good chance at being a two-way player and pitching every few days.”
Cain will likely roam the outfield on non-pitching days.
But Hawks skipper Adam Albright knows where Cain best makes his hay. The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 2.08 earned-run average and struck out 109 batters in 60 2/3 innings during his junior season.
“Whenever Alex is on the mound, it almost feels like a different sort of game,” Albright said. “It gives the team a whole new mentality. Every time Alex pitches, we definitely have a chance to win.”
Cain, a unanimous All-Big Northern Conference West selection, is handy with the bat, too. He hit .442 with a .760 slugging percentage, clocking six home runs and driving in 35 runs last season.
Cain is interested in studying athletic training or sports management, but says he’s keeping his options open for the moment. He was unable to disclose details of his scholarship.
“I can’t do that, but I can say it’s sufficient,” Cain said. “It’s going to take care of a lot of things.”