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The senior from Santa Monica High School is looking to be selected in next month’s baseball draft.
Turner is one of the best high school baseball players in Southern California. Photo by Jason Lewis
Turner comes from an athletic family. His father played football and ran track at Dorsey High School. His mother ran track, and played volleyball and softball at Banning High School.
Like many black athletes, Turner has speed, and a whole lot of it. He has been compared to Kenny Lofton. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Santa Monica High School’s Alex Turner is taking a different route than most black athletes growing up in South Los Angeles. While the percentages of black Major League baseball players has dramatically declined over the past couple of decades because most black athletes are playing football and basketball, Turner is sticking to this country’s national pastime, which he believes that many people have lost touch with.
“A lot of people don’t understand the concept of the game,” Turner said. “They think it’s too boring. I’m a chill guy, so I like to be out there in the outfield. Baseball is more of a mental sport than a physical sport.”
Even though baseball is a mental game, being physically gifted can make a huge difference. Black people, in general, are faster than other races. That is evident by looking at the racial make up of skill position players in football, or track athletes in the 100-meter dash. Turner has those same abilities, and his explosiveness on the base path and in centerfield could land him in next month’s baseball draft. He has been invited to the Milwaukee Brewers pre-draft workout, and scouts are falling in love with his speed.
“Not a lot of guys have speed in baseball,” Turner said. “A lot of scouts have told me that you can’t teach that. You can use that on both sides of the field. In the outfield you can use your speed to run down fly balls, and on the bases you can steal.”
Turner has been compared to Kenny Lofton, who is 15th all time with 622 career stolen bases, and Michael Bourn, who currently plays centerfield for the Cleveland Indians, who is also known for his speed. Turner had an opportunity to speak with Lofton, and the former player told him to play to his strengths, so use the speed.
When Turner gets on the base paths he is pretty much taking whatever he wants.
“Pretty much if I get on base that’s like a run,” Turner said. “I’m going to steal second, and most likely I’m going to steal third. When the next guy is up all he has to do is hit a ground ball or a pop fly and I’m going to score.”
For Turner, it is not about hitting the ball out of the park, but doing his part to get on base, or move his teammates over.
“I’m not a big power guy,” Turner said. “A lot of people under look the speed game because everybody wants to hit homeruns. But the little things in baseball, like small ball, they do not look at as a major factor.”
Turner started playing baseball at Rancho Cienga Park as a young child, and he also played at Ladera Little League and in Santa Monica. His father played football and ran track at Dorsey High School, and his mother played softball, volleyball, and ran track at Banning High School.
Even though Turner’s father, Darren, did not play baseball, he gave his son one tip that may have changed the course of Alex’s career.
“When he was young he was batting right handed and he couldn’t hit,” Darren Turner said. “He was crying and he wanted to quit, so I told him to hit the other way, and he started to hit and he enjoyed the game. I just told him to try something different.”
The elder Turner did not have any baseball experience, and he said that it wasn’t even a hunch. He just felt that if it was not working one way, try it the other way. And his son, who is right handed, has been batting left handed ever since.
Santa Monica High School’s baseball coach Tony Todd, who is also black, believes that Turner has the skills to go to the next level.
“I think he’s a great athlete, and I think maybe one day you’ll probably be seeing him playing in the Major Leagues,” Todd said. “He’s one of the fastest guys around here in this area, and he’s a great kid.”
Todd has been a major proponent for black athletes to get back into baseball, and he does not feel that Turner will have any issues in a majority white sport.
“He fits right there with them,” Todd said. “A lot of my friends are African American baseball players. Dave Windfield, Tim Rains, Ken Griffey Jr. They are all trying to get more African Americans back into the game. Most kids want to play basketball and football, but I tell kids that if you can just run they will find you. If you can just run, because they believe that they can teach you the other things like throwing and batting.”
Turner does not feel that race is an issue.
“My skills speaks for itself, so my skin color doesn’t matter,” Turner said.
Baseball is Turner’s passion, and after his playing days are over he plans to be a coach or a scout. Baseball will be his lifelong career.