Two weeks after stepping off the college diamond for the last time, Alec Olund made his professional baseball debut.
Olund, a graduate of Lake Central High School and Purdue University, played for the Boilermakers (38-21) June 3 in the Chapel Hill Regional and soon made his way home to northwest Indiana.
Early last week, he had separate workouts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and independent Windy City Thunderbolts.
On Thursday, he got a call from Traverse City (Mich.) Beach Bums manager Dan Rohn asking him to join the independent Frontier League club in Evansville.
“It was just out of the blue,” says Olund. “I had never worked out for them or had any previous contact.
“As a crazy side note, my dad (Tony) bought bath bomb for my mom (Lyda) a few weeks ago and name of the bath bomb is Beach Bum and the colors are navy and yellow just like the team. It’s sign that this is meant to be. It’s pretty insane, actually.”
The Olunds as well as the family of Alec’s girlfriend, Rachel Bell, have already been talking about the 300-mile trip to see Alec play and the beach along Lake Michigan.
Alec Olund arrived on Saturday June 16, signed his contract and was on the bench that night. On Sunday, June 17, he was in the lineup. He played in left field and went 0-for-3 from the No. 9 hole.
He picked up his first pro hit — a fourth-inning single — Tuesday, June 19, at Washington, Pa.
Olund, a right-handed hitter, hit .231, .254, .219 and .336 in his four seasons at Purdue. He appeared in 183 games (152 as a starter). He hit four home runs (two coming in one game his freshman season of 2015).
How has he improved over the years?
“My first two years (at Purdue), I showed glimpses of what I was capable of,” says Olund. “But I had a lot of inconsistencies. I was still — for the lack of a better word, a little immature at times. I was trying to do too much with my swing.
“I’ve always been great defensively with great speed and a great arm.”
Olund went into the 2018 college baseball season thinking it could be his last at any level.
“I tried to simplify some things and just put a good swing on every pitch and not try to do too much,” says Olund. “That’s why I found a lot more success at the plate. I was able to tie everything together.”
In the summer of 2017, Olund played a few games with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen of the Midwest Collegiate League. But he spent most of his time getting bigger and stronger and tweaking his swing. It was something the Purdue staff, who had originally planned to send him to Palm Springs Calif., for the summer season, wanted him to do.
Olund hired a personal trainer — Justin Connors — to put him through a series of vigorous workouts.
“I owe a lot of my success to Justin,” says Olund, who first discussed training with Connors while in Jamaica for older brother Tony Olund’s wedding. “He’s a great guy. He’s really, really good. I wish I would have went to him sooner.
“I worked my absolute tail off and put about 20 pounds of muscle on (at 6-foot-1 1/2 frame).”
Olund had been around 180 pounds and played in the spring at between 198 and 202. “It’s been a huge key for me. I’ve been able to put easier swings in the ball.
“When I was lighter, I had to manufacture a lot of my power. I was using a leg kick and trying to get the timing perfectly. Now, I’ve simplified and I’ve been using my core and my strength to put good swings on the ball.”
Besides the strength building, Olund studied successful major leaguers — guys like Mike Trout, Jose Altuve and Nolan Arenado — and tried to incorporate what they do into his offense.
“I experimented with a lot of different things,” says Olund. “I tried to find what works best for me.”
Former Lake Central coach Jeff Sandor brought Olund up to the varsity during his freshman year and the player never looked back.
Olund was the only sophomore on LC’s 32-1 IHSAA 4A state championship team in 2012.
“Jeff was really, really tough on me,” says Olund of Sandor. “There were times when I would get mad at him. He was hard on me because he knew I had the potential and I could be really, really good.
“He kind of held me to a different standard than other players.”
Olund played four seasons of football in high school and was away from baseball workouts for months in the late summer, fall and early winter.
But even that first season, Sandor had him practicing and — soon after — playing with the varsity.
“That was a really neat experience for me,” says Olund. “Here I was 14 or 15, playing with 17- and 18-year-olds.”
The older guys were accepting of the frosh.
“They felt like I belonged there and I did as well,” says Olund. “They took me in with open arms. Jimmy McNamara is one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. He’s a special kid. He really took me under his wing.
“He said it was OK to be myself. I really jelled with that team and we had a lot of fun.”
McNamara was two years ahead of Olund and was the L.V. Phillips Mental Attitude Award winner in 2012 before going on to a four-year playing career at Central Michigan University.
Olund’s earliest experience with organized baseball came with youth leagues in Schererville. After that, Tony Olund started the Region Redbirds and the team traveled around the Midwest.
The summer leading into Alec’s freshman year at LC, the Redbirds went 73-7.
“It was amazing,” says Olund. “That was kind of my first taste of really good baseball.”
His 15U summer, he played for what is now known as the Cangelosi Sparks, a travel organization in Illinois led by former major leaguer John Cangelosi.
“That guy’s really, really good at what he does,” says Olund, who went to Cangelosi for hitting lessons for years during his teens. “I really liked him a lot.”
From 16U to 18U, Olund played for the Indiana Bulls. He is appreciative of his years with the elite travel organization.
“Dan Held, Quinn Moore, Gary Sylvester, Ryan Bunnell — so many Bulls people hold a special place in my heart,” says Olund. “That was the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball, that 17U summer on the Black team.
“That was an incredible ride, that whole Indiana Bulls experience. I’m grateful for that because it’s put me in the position I am today.”
The Held-coached 17U Black squad was stacked. Many players went on to NCAA Division I baseball and are now playing in the pros, including Drew Ellis and Logan Sowers.
Olund was brought to Purdue by head coach Doug Schreiber and played his two seasons for him and his last two for Mark Wasikowski.
“Doug is tough,” says Olund. “I liked that. He was old school. We were going to work hard.
“Coach Waz brought a winning attitude. We build a culture of whatever it takes to win, we’re going to do that. We played hard, aggressive baseball.”
While at Purdue, he earned a degree in organizational management.
After his freshmen season, Alec was going to play in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
But his mother was diagnosed with skin cancer and he opted to stay close to home, playing with the Oilmen.
“Thankfully, it’s been gone now,” says Olund of the melanoma that was removed. “She’s been really healthy. I still pray for that everyday, that she stays healthy.”
Olund started dating Bell when he was a Lake Central senior and she was a sophomore. The daughter of Craig and Lisa Bell is now heading into her junior college basketball season at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.
“There’s always constant support with her and her family,” says Alec. “They are really good people.”
The Olunds and Bells live about a minute apart in the Schererville area.
Playing sports at a high level is something else Alec and Rachel have in common.
“There’s a lot of things that she’s been through that I’ve been through,” says Olund. “I try to help her as much as I can. I also don’t want to dominate her life because I want her to experience it for herself.”
A middle infielder most of his Lake Central career, Olund moved to the outfield.
“They saw me as an outfielder in high school because I had a long arm and good speed,” says Olund. “They could use me in center field.”
Olund played some center field at Purdue and was then moved to right field.
“I feel I profile more as a center fielder,” says Olund. “I can track down balls really well.
“If I was in the infield, I’d profile more as a third baseman because I do have a long, strong arm. Those middle infielders have short, quick arms.”
Alec Olund, a Lake Central High School and Purdue University graduate, made his professional baseball debut June 17, 2018 with the independent Frontier League’s Traverse City Beach Bums. (Steve Krah Photo)