Standing at 6-foot-3 inches tall, the right-handed pitcher exits the Lehigh dugout and approaches the mound at his own pace.
He has only been with the team for a few months, but he cruises across the diamond at J. David Walker Field like a veteran.
This time last year, sophomore Alex Bouchard was playing shortstop at Dickinson College, a Division III program in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After transferring to Lehigh, he is now pitching at the Division I level.
Bouchard mouths along to the soft country music that plays from the field’s speakers as he throws warm up pitches before the third inning starts. It was his first time pitching in front of the Lehigh home crowd, entering the game as a relief pitcher with a one-run lead against Coppin State University on March 8.
In between his teammates’ hollering, Bouchard deals 93-mile-per-hour fastballs against gusts of 17-mile-per-hour winds. He has only been pitching for a year, but his velocity and fire on the mound cast a shadow on his lack of experience.
Bouchard takes his time on the pitcher’s mound.
Over the course of a year marked with big changes, Bouchard has made a name for himself as one of Lehigh’s most promising starting pitchers. He said the journey he took to get here has been defined by patience. Bouchard is learning to find success through practicing composure on the mound.
“Training my mind to be focused for six, seven innings is something I’ve never had to do before,” Bouchard said. “I have to control the game and not let it move too fast.”
In Bouchard’s appearance against Coppin State, three of his six strikeouts came on three straight pitches. He finished the outing giving up one hit and no runs in four full innings.
Despite his blazing fastball, the right hander is careful to prioritize patience and intent when he’s pitching.
Bouchard likes to fish and draws similarities between fishing and being a Division I pitcher. He said he knows better than to rush himself whether he’s on the water or the baseball diamond, but once he gets the opposing batter to miss his changeup, he deals the fastball, blowing it right by the batter for the strikeout. Hook, line and sinker.
Bouchard takes his time in the weight room
Although fishing is often an individual activity, Bouchard does not treat baseball this way. In the weight room alone, he has sparked friendly competition between him and some of the first-years he mentors.
“The younger guys will try to stay in the weight room longer, and we jokingly call each other out for leaving early,” Bouchard said.
His coaches believe Bouchard’s attitude and leadership have already impacted the team.
Pitching coach Pat Knight said it’s easy for younger players to respect Bouchard because they know he will spend the time it takes to improve.
“It’s easy to make an impact when you work your tail off like (Bouchard) does,” Knight said.
Bouchard said he credits his work ethic with bringing him success during his transition from position player to pitcher.
Last summer, Bouchard said he spent countless hours training and researching the mechanics of pitching. He learned a lot about his body and acted as his own coach, spending the time to hone his abilities.
“He’s about as hardworking and as committed of a young man as I’ve had in the program,” head coach Sean Leary said. “It’s cliché to say, but he’s the first one in the gym and the last one to go.”
Bouchard said his improvement has been apparent, and he is proud of the work he’s done, especially without a pitching coach.
Bouchard takes his time with his teammates
Compared to other teammates, Bouchard is reserved and soft spoken, but his love for baseball is clear. He said his favorite part of the day is when he steps onto the field — an attitude that is embraced by his teammates.
When Bouchard sees first-year pitchers struggle with the things he was able to teach himself, he offers them guidance.
“I just tell (the first-years) the things I wish someone had told me when I was figuring out this whole pitching thing,” Bouchard said.
Even before his time at Lehigh, Bouchard’s attitude and work ethic earned him leading roles. Bouchard said he was elected by his teammates to the Leadership Council on the Dickinson baseball team as a first-year.
Beyond his teammates, Bouchard credits his parents for his young success.
“Seeing them provide for me and my brother has always been an inspiration to me,” Bouchard said. “I owe a lot of everything I have to them.”
His parents could be seen on the sideline at the Mountain Hawks home opener. His mother, camera in hand, captured the game.
Bouchard’s parents immediately congratulated him as he emerged from the dugout after earning his first career win with Lehigh baseball.
Alex Bouchard takes his time
“I haven’t even really had the chance to process it all,” Bouchard said. “But sometimes it’s nice to just take a step back and put it all into perspective.”
Bouchard said the speed of his pitch and his success are the product of patience — something he intends to persist with as his game continues to change.
Mouthing along to the soft country that plays from the stands, he said he will be moving one step and one pitch at a time.
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