Alonso Close to Wrapping Up Historic Rookie Campaign for the Mets

Alonso Close to Wrapping Up Historic Rookie Campaign for the Mets

Alonso Close to Wrapping Up Historic Rookie Campaign for the Mets

There are rookie performances in baseball that capture media and fan attention throughout the season. These stories from first-year standouts are common, and we usually follow a few each year in the MLB.

Then there are those rare rookie campaigns that become the stuff of legend—the tales of debut seasons passed from generation to generation. The heroes in these time-honored tales are among the greatest the game has ever seen.

Names like Albert Pujols, Doc Gooden, Ichiro Suzuki, and Mike Trout come to mind.

We can add Pete Alonso to the list in 2019.

The New York Mets first baseman is finishing out a first season for the ages in Flushing, Queens. He’s the obvious choice for National League (NL) Rookie of the Year and finds himself among league leaders in a number of offensive categories as the regular season winds to a close.

 

A Power Hitter is Born

 

The story begins in Tampa, Florida, where Alonso was born on December 7, 1994. A youth baseball player and space fanatic, the future slugger dreamed of becoming either a pro ballplayer or an astronaut. 

While NASA has yet to come calling, the major leagues did, and Alonso has answered in a big way with meteoric home runs that could qualify as space travel.

Alonso honed his batting skills as a young player by taking batting practice pitches from both of his parents. When his dad, also named Pete, wasn’t available, his mom Michelle would toss batting practice.

The pitching mix wasn’t limited to baseballs. Alonso recalls his mother throwing golf balls, bouncy balls, water balloons, and even oranges and grapefruits from the neighbor’s citrus trees.

The collection of odd hitting materials didn’t faze Alonso, and he quickly learned to swat anything and everything pitched his way. 

Rise to the Big Leagues

 

Following a successful athletic career in baseball, football, and lacrosse at Henry B. Plant High School in Tampa, Alonso ventured to the baseball team at the University of Florida. He was a member of the Gators’ College World Series teams in 2015 and 2016 as a sophomore and junior. He hit an impressive .374 with 14 homers and 60 RBI in 58 games as a junior, drawing the attention of major league scouts.

The Mets were the first team to flash the money and selected Alonso with the 64th overall pick in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. 

The 24-year old quickly advanced his way through the Amazin’s minor league system with stops in Brooklyn, St. Lucie, Binghamton, and Las Vegas along the way. Alonso knocked 36 home runs in 2018 between Binghamton and Las Vegas, winning the Joe Bauman Home Run Award for most dingers in a minor league season. 

It was no surprise when Alonso was named the Mets starting first baseman at the start of the 2019 season in March. He registered his first major league hit on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals and belted his first home run on April 1 in a bout with the Miami Marlins. 

Alonso has continued on a tear for the past six months. He’s been locked with Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers and LA Dodger Cody Bellinger in a season-long battle for NL home run leader. 

 

A Record-Setting Rookie Campaign

 

There’s no better way to understand Alonso’s rookie season impact than a look at the numbers and accomplishments he’s racked up throughout the spring and summer. Consider a few of the highlights.

        Became the first rookie since 1900 to have at least 11 extra-base hits in his first 10 games. (April 9)

        Won the National League Rookie of the Month Award (April)

        Broke the NL home run record for most homers by a rookie before the All-Star break with 26 (June 22, over two weeks before the All-Star break)

        His 27th home run passed Darryl Strawberry for most home runs by a Mets rookie (June 23)

        Defeated Toronto Blue Jays rookie sensation Vladimir Guerrero en route to hitting 57 home runs to win the MLB Home Run Derby (July 8)

        Appeared for the NL in the All-Star Game (July 9)

        Broke Cody Bellinger’s NL record for most home runs in a rookie season with his 40th homer of the season (August 18)

        His 42nd homer set the Mets all-time franchise record for most home runs in a season by any player, the first time this has happened since Jonny Rizzo raised the high-water mark for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1938 (August 27)

Alonso leads the majors in home runs with 46 as of September 9. He’s nipping at the heels of Aaron Judge’s major league rookie mark of 52 set in 2017. 

 

The New Face of New York

 

For a Mets team that has finished second to last in the NL East over the previous two seasons, Alonso is a welcome addition and likely the franchise player of the future. 

As the 2019 MLB season enters the home stretch, he’s almost single-handedly keeping the prospect of a postseason appearance alive. The Mets currently face longshot odds to win the NL but are contenders for a Wild Card playoff spot.

Alonso himself put it in a more articulate way in a tweet on July 31: “The rest of the season is going to be a really fun, wild, and memorable ride.”

Regardless of what happens to the Mets during the remainder of 2019, it’s expected that Alonso will provide plenty of fun, wild, and memorable rides going forward in the Big Apple. 

And while there’s no question Alonzo is capable of putting up elite numbers, he’s also the type of charismatic player who can rally teammates while filling seats at Citi Field. Fans want to see what the pure hitter will do in any given game. 

There’s also no reason why Alonso won’t wrap-up 2019 as one of the greatest all-around first-year campaigns ever, take home the NL Rookie of the Year trophy, and pick up right where he left off in 2020.

 

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