After Fort Osage grad Alex Merithew finished his senior season at Rockhurst University, he awaited the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft to see if he would get chosen.
It was not to be.
After his career was over with the Hawks, he played in the Ban Johnson League with Regal Plastic over the summer. When that was finished he had to figure out what was next for him. For most, it’s the end of the line for one’s baseball career when they finish college and don’t get drafted by an Major League Baseball team.
Alex Merithew is not most baseball players. He wasn’t done with the game. Not by a longshot.
After a search on baseballoverseas.com, he found a way to continue playing the game he loves. He landed a spot as a player and a coach for the Belgium Cats semi-professional baseball team after sending some video highlights of his playing career and some references.
He also had some offers from another team in Belgium, a team in Paris, one in Poland and one in Germany.
“I wanted to find a way to keep playing,” said Merithew, who had a 4.34 ERA, a .274 batting average against and eight strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings in his final year with Rockhurst. “I had some friends who played overseas in Belgium and Australia and they said it’s a great experience.
“(The Belgium Merchtem Cats) were the first team to contact me, so that was one of the reasons I chose them. The club seemed really great. I contacted a couple of players who used to play for them and they said it was a great experience. I can hop on a train and be in London, Paris or Amsterdam, so that was a big plus.”
Merithew grew up playing baseball, playing catch in the backyard with his father Ben. He also loved playing Wiffle ball with his younger brothers Jacob and Josh. Even during their family vacations, it was usually planned around baseball.
He said his four years at Rockhurst were a great experience as well. He enjoyed the road trips and spending time with his teammates. He noted that his senior year was disappointing in terms of team and individual success, but he ended up being on the championship team in the Ban Johnson League.
After that, a friend named Josh Toles, who is now in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system, convinced Merithew to try playing overseas. He applied and got a spot on the team. He has had success as a starting pitcher. He has a 6-3 record and a 1.46 ERA.
His success had largely been due to adding a couple of pitches to his repertoire.
“When I was a reliever at Rockhurst I mostly just threw a fastball and curveball,” Merithew said. “But now that I am a starter, I had to start using more pitches. I have used my splitter and my slider. I have to mix my pitches to prepare to face hitters three to four times a game.”
The former Indian isn’t doing this for the money as he only earns 350 Euros ($450) a month. But he enjoys it and could get a possible career out of it. Merithew has considered coaching as a career possibility. Right now, he is an assistant coach for the 15-year-old Merchtem Cats squad and the head coach of the 13-year-old team.
Even while coaching and engaging with others in Belgium, Merithew said he is often viewed as the outsider.
“Everybody looks at me and says, ‘Oh, there’s the American,’” Merithew said. “They can tell somehow tell who’s American and who isn’t. When coaching, some of the youth teams will ask, ‘How do they do it in America?’”
Coaching has always been something he’s enjoyed. When Merithew is in the United States, he worked with the Fort Osage High School pitchers, including his brother Jacob.
“That’s been a really rewarding experience,” Merithew said. “I definitely want to coach and work with kids. That has been on my radar the past couple of years. It something I have been doing for the past couple of years and something that I enjoy.”
While that’s something he could get into sometime in the future, Merithew doesn’t plan to stop playing after the season in Belgium is over. He plans on trying to play in Australia during the winter and hopes to draw enough attention to possibly get drafted by an major league team.
“As long as I can put off growing up and keep playing baseball, I am going to do it,” Merithew said. “I hope I can eventually get back to the States and play again. That would be a dream come true.”