Boyd Anderson baseball coach Cedric Alexander never thought he took things for granted until he was under rocket attack his first night in eastern Afghanistan.
With a critical shortage of military police, Alexander was deployed in 2011 for the first time in more than two decades.
After graduating from Dillard High School in 1983, the self-proclaimed military rat joined the service and didn’t return from duty until 1989 when he left Darmstadt, Germany, about 20 miles from Frankfurt.
The second act of his unusual case began two years ago when he received a certified letter in the mail. He took it to the U.S. Army Reserve Center, where he was told he was being taken out of Individual Ready Reserve.
Alexander, 48, has five kids — his oldest is a college graduate and his youngest is a sixth-grader. Asked what would happen if he didn’t go, the answer was jail. It was time to miss his mother’s home-cooked sweet potato pie.
“Walking around knowing that the bad guy is on the other side of the fence and not knowing what he looks like is a very stressful thing,” Alexander said. “We complain about the water not coming on when you have to walk literally two miles to get water and two miles to come back. It really changes your perspective.”
His job as team leader of the 351st Military Police Combat Battalion requires escorting personnel through places like Iraq and Afghanistan, ensuring they get where they need to be safely.
Since high school, Alexander has been involved in some form of law enforcement. He once worked in the sheriff’s office. He is currently a security specialist with the school board.
“I just love helping people,” Alexander said. “This is going to sound corny, but I want people to feel safe or they don’t feel that harm is going to come to them.”
Prior to joining the military, Alexander played second base and center field in semi-professional baseball at Fort Lauderdale’s Joseph C. Carter Park under the Astros organization.
Following his return to the United States, Alexander started coaching at Northeast, later Stranahan and then Stoneman Douglas during Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s time. He had coached at Boyd Anderson since 2009 before his 2011 deployment.
His assistant coach, Akil Buchanan, understands the balancing act his mentor goes through.
Buchanan is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army and was sent to Fort Dix, N.J., in January, forcing him to miss this baseball season. Buchanan graduated from Boyd Anderson in 1999, often competing against Alexander’s teams. A dislocated shoulder ended the second baseman’s independent baseball career.
He and Alexander, who have coached together for seven years, try to coordinate their work and military schedules. Last week, however, Alexander was sent to Tampa to help train his unit, leaving no one to hold practice for the kids.
“It is a big challenge because you have love on both ends,” Buchanan said. “You don’t want to leave either one of them, but you want to dedicate your time to it.”
There are just 10 players on an 0-12 Boyd Anderson team in Alexander’s first year back.
It’s tough to compete with football, basketball and track. Expensive baseballs and bats prove costly. BA’s diamond is the only one in Lauderlake Lakes. While there is no quality Little League system in the area, the Cobras face kids who have played the sport their entire lives.
“It’s been kind of a tough road because the baseball program is somewhat struggling, but I have a few dedicated players that are trying to change the face of baseball at Boyd Anderson,” Alexander said. “It’s going to take some time.”
One of those players, junior catcher Malik Alberic, played Little League but focused on football and wrestling growing up. Of late, Alberic bonds with his grandmother by catching Atlanta Braves games on TV.
All junior shortstop Nathaniel Watson knew about baseball before the first practice was that he needed to hit and run. That’s why Alexander starts newcomers off with rudimentary fielding, which includes the basic fundamentals of throwing.
“He’s like a military type, but he wants the best for us,” Alberic said. “He expects us to do good. I appreciate him being on us as a team and to be one. He’s a great coach. I highly recommend him for anything.”
There’s still a chance Alexander must once again fulfill his duty to the military depending on what’s happening around the world. He’s always ready just in case.
“For 20 years in between, I was just here living the life, being a father, being a coach,” Alexander said. “That’s what I was doing. I enjoy that — still do — but when they call, I answer.”