By David Willis
---- — Alec Livingston has never viewed himself as an intimidator.
At 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds with a fastball that tops out at a little more than 80 mph, the righty knows that brute force alone will not be enough when he faces off against many batters.
Luckily, Livingston has more than enough in his arsenal to confound the best of hitters.
“We played Swampscott (last week) with Alec on the mound,” Andover coach Joe Iarrobino recalled. “The umpire behind the plate, who has been around for years, told me that Alec’s curveball was the sharpest curve that he has ever seen as an umpire. And this umpire has been working high school, Legion and college games for years.”
A year after emerging from nowhere to take on a key role on the mound for Andover High, and a school year at Ohio State keeping his skills sharp with the Buckeyes’ club baseball team, Livingston has returned to his hometown as a go-to pitcher for the Andover Legion team this summer.
“I’m feeling great,” he said. “I wanted to come back here and pitch for this team. I love going after hitters, and it’s fun competing against batters who are bigger than me and getting them out.”
After pitching just three innings during his junior season at Andover High, Livingston broke out as a senior, earning a spot in the Golden Warriors’ starting rotation and proving one of the team’s steadiest pitchers, going 2-4 with a 2.68 ERA.
“He really battled to get where he was,” Andover High coach Dan Grams said during Livingston’s senior season. “He really picked it up. He just gets better and better.”
Despite his love of the game, Livingston did not plan on baseball playing a role in his college life. Instead, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of enrolling at Ohio State University.
“My dad is from outside of Detroit and went to Michigan State,” he said. “My mom is from Cincinnati and Ohio State was her dream school, but she never had the chance to go there. So I always rooted for both schools and I knew I wanted to go to one of the two. Eventually, Ohio State was the right place.”
Sports did take on a big role early on at OSU, with Livingston among the 102,329 fans who filled Ohio Stadium every weekend for the legendary Buckeye football games.
“I had never been to an Ohio State football game before,” he said. “I bought a season ticket to the home games and it was just incredible. There are over 100,000 people there going crazy, the band was amazing and the team was undefeated.
“When they beat (archrival) Michigan, a whole bunch of kids — myself included — charged the field. The atmosphere, everything is crazy. You hate the other team just because of their name.”
But he wasn’t content to just be a fan. He soon found himself back on the diamond, as a member of the Ohio State club baseball team.
“We would practice some during the week and play doubleheaders on the weekends,” he said. “We played teams like Xavier and Eastern Kentucky. It’s good competition. I had one bad start, but overall, I pitched pretty well out there.”
Livingston finished the season 4-1 with a 4.05 ERA, allowing two or fewer earned runs in all but one start, and struck out 23. He struck out eight in five no-hit innings against Edison Community College and allowed one run in seven innings in a victory over Eastern Kentucky.
But his accomplishments on the mound were nothing compared to what baseball did for him on a personal level.
“It was a great decision to get involved with the team,” he said. “I didn’t know anyone, and it helped me find people that were like me. I found a bunch of guys that loved the game just like I do.”
Once finals ended and he returned to Andover, Livingston decided to don the Golden Warriors colors once again as a member of the Andover Legion team.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” he said. “But once I thought about it, I knew it would be a great chance to pitch and compete. I love being around the guys, too.”
In his first start he allowed just a single earned run in a tough 2-1 loss, and in his second appearance, he came out of the bullpen to pitch five innings of two-hit relief, but was the tough-luck loser as the Golden Warriors fell to Gloucester 2-1.
“I try to keep hitters off balance,” he said. “I have my good curve that I throw a lot and my change-up is decent, too. But I’m a mostly fastball and curve.”
He will soon be counted on that much more, as ace Dustin Hunt will be shut down to prepare to pitch at Northeastern University in Boston.
“Alec has complete control of the strike zone,” Iarrobino said. “We know that we can count on him to give us quality innings and step in when we need him.”
Alec isn’t the only athlete in his family.
His sister is Jessie Livingston, the Andover High star gymnast who has overcome back injuries to earn the state title on the beam this past winter. She is heading into her senior year with the Golden Warriors.