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    Wednesday, December 07, 2022

    East Lyme’s Chambers is part physicist, part baseball fan as Blue Jays intern

    Alex Chambers, a 2018 East Lyme High School grad, is a player development intern with the Toronto Blue Jays and working out of their minor league training complex in Dunedin, Fla. Chambers, who graduated from Trinity College with a degree in physics, is putting that degree to good use as she deciphers swing decisions or how a hitter approaches each at-bat from behind the plate during minor league games. (Photo courtesy of Chambers family).
    Alex Chambers, a 2018 East Lyme graduate, was the starting catcher at Trinity College in Hartford this spring, making only two errors in 32 games. (Photo courtesy of Chambers family)
    East Lyme’s Alex Chambers had two years of eligibility remaining at Trinity College due to COVID-19, but the physics major decided to accept an internship with the Toronto Blue Jays in player development and will spend the 2022 and 2023 seasons working in a variety of capacities at the Jay’s minor league complex in Dunedin, Fla. (Photo courtesy of Trinity College athletics)

    To be hired by Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays as their player development complex intern, East Lyme High School graduate Alex Chambers had to go through 12 interviews, maybe 13.

    Even though she describes herself as somewhat introverted, the interview process earlier this year is what Chambers describes as her favorite part.

    “In terms of the interviews, I trust what I know about baseball,” Chambers said this week in a telephone interview from Dunedin, Florida, where she goes to work every day at the newly renovated 65-acre player development site.

    “I trust my love for it and my experience. I wasn’t nervous about the actual interviews. I just talked about what I love. ... I got interviewed by 12 or 13 different people, the most I’ve ever experienced. Honestly, at first it was intimidating. But you’re going to be interacting with so many people while you’re here.

    “It’s been such a great experience thus far.”

    Chambers, a 2018 graduate of East Lyme, was the catcher for the Vikings’ softball team and a member of The Day’s All-Area team. She also played on East Lyme’s soccer team and excelled in ski racing. But it was softball which she would spend the most time perfecting.

    A physics major at Trinity College in Hartford, Chambers was the Bantams’ starting catcher, committing just two errors in 32 games last spring, her senior season, for a fielding percentage of .984. Her best year at the plate came during the 2021 season, shortened due to COVID-19, in which she was 12-for-27 with four doubles, two triples and 10 RBI, batting .444.

    Due to COVID-19, Chambers left two years of eligibility on the table at Trinity. She was that anxious to start her career in baseball, a sport she played when she was younger and grew up watching from the time her parents, Jamie and Veronica, dressed her in a Boston Red Sox cheerleader’s outfit and she rooted feverishly for Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

    “I’m just very jealous of the technology they have here,” Chambers said with a laugh of the Dunedin complex. “When I was in college, I would manually make scouting reports of other teams; I really had to take a lot of time out of each day. Just seeing the amount of information they have here. Catcher cards. Recommendations for pitches.”

    Chambers’ explanation of her duties can sound like that of a physics major at times.

    She deciphers swing decisions or how a hitter approached each at-bat. For many games at the minor league complex, encompassing both the rookie-level Florida Complex League Blue Jays (former Gulf Coast League) and the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays, Chambers can be found behind home plate tagging pitches. Via computer, she charts velocity, spin rate, what pitch was thrown, whether the batter swung and whether it was a ball or a strike.

    She’s currently shadowing Single-A catching coach George Carroll, resulting in a spot in the dugout for Dunedin games, in uniform.

    She also recently had the opportunity to actually put on some gear and catch for a Blue Jays draft pick and one of their pitchers rehabbing in Dunedin — “It was so fun,” she said.

    Chambers is both a physics nut and a flat-out baseball fanatic, sometimes technological, sometimes exuberant.

    She begins her day when her first alarm goes off at 4:55 a.m. — she tries to get up early to get in a workout — putting in a full day and then some.

    “I can’t complain,” she said. “I get to be at a baseball field all day ... helping with all the groups that are in our complex, the FCL, the rehab group that comes here to get back into playing shape, helping out with everyone and learning different departments.

    “I’ve been focused a little more on the hitting and catching side, going over the video and data with the players from the FCL group and the Dunedin group, looking at it and figuring out different correlations between different statistics. There’s kind of a lot that goes into it. I’m learning the process of that.

    “They gave me a lot of freedom and let me do what I’m interested in. I’ve always wanted to work in baseball.”

    Paving her own way

    Chambers’ dad, Jamie, attended East Lyme High around the same time as East Lyme grad Pete Walker, in his 10th season as the Blue Jays’ pitching coach and a staple in the organization since he played for Toronto ending with the 2006 season.

    Alex, however, didn’t want an internship predicated on any sort of friendship with Walker. That made it a challenge for her even getting to the dozen interviews.

    She found a “Women in Baseball” conference, held via Zoom, and had the chance to speak with Dehra Harris, a Washington University of St. Louis grad who is now the Blue Jays’ Assistant Director of Applied Performance Research.

    “I asked to speak to her one-on-one (afterward),” Chambers said of Harris. “I talked to her about what she does in the Blue Jays’ program. We spoke and she passed along my resume.”

    Chambers’ end goal is a career involving the development of major league players, either in a coaching role or in the front office.

    One thing she’s certain of is that she chose the right organization with which to start.

    “I never would have expected to be received with so much respect as I have,” Chambers said, asked how she was welcomed as a young woman passing on hitting and fielding instruction to professional ballplayers. “They’re respectful and open to what I have to say beyond what I ever expected.

    "A lot of it has to do with the Blue Jays’ culture. (The players) know you’re here for a reason. The Blue Jays have a culture of respect.“

    Her apartment in Dunedin is a mile from the beach, not too much different from back in East Lyme. She will keep her internship with the Blue Jays through the 2023 season, meaning she will be a part of next season’s spring training in Dunedin, where all of Toronto’s major and minor league players will converge.

    Another favorite part:

    “I’m shadowing the low-A affiliate coach and they let me be in the dugout for those games,” Chambers said. “Being in a real stadium, wearing a uniform, wearing the baseball pants. Speaking with the players, the environment of being a coach. One of my first games wearing the uniform, some little girls ran up to the fence asking for my autograph.”

    This is Chambers, the baseball enthusiast, speaking.

    “When I was a little kid, I would be so excited. I was raised as a Red Sox fan, always a diehard fan, being at games before I could walk. Having my dad explain baseball to me was such a magical thing,” Chambers said.

    “The childlike awe you have of baseball never really goes away.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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