PORT ST. LUCIE – As someone who grew up in Tampa and still resides in the area, the last six months have been nirvana for Pete Alonso, the sports fan.
In that stretch, the Stanley Cup and the Lombardi Trophy were lifted for the Lightning and the Buccaneers, respectively. And a third professional team in the Tampa area, the Rays, advanced to Game 6 of the World Series.
All of this has further whetted Alonso’s appetite for success in his job as first baseman for the Mets. Simply put, Alonso wants to bring a missing piece of hardware to New York: the Commissioner’s Trophy.
“The goal for us is to be the last team at the end of the year and to be able to see how much the city of Tampa vibrated, it was full of energy and it was exciting and I can’t wait for that to happen in New York, starting in Queens,” said Alonso. on Friday after a team practice.
“To have that enthusiasm, to have that energy, to have that arrogance, that excitement, that is a privilege and it starts now with attention to detail and going out and racing our bottoms and going out and wanting to win and do anything for a win. Being in that kind of environment is a privilege and I can’t wait for it. I hope the five boroughs will turn into a massive block party when we do. “
Alonso followed his historic 2019 season, in which he set an MLB rookie record by hitting 53 home runs, with a sophomore slip, if you can call it that, in more than 60 games. In total, he finished with a respectable .231 / .326 / .490 line with 16 home runs and 35 RBIs for a team that finished last in the NL East.
No one will yearn for a return to a full season more than Alonso, who said he’s made for the marathon, but not necessarily for the sprint.
“The sixty-game season, I can’t put too much credit on that because I know it’s difficult,” Alonso said. “Last year was a very abnormal year, not just in baseball, I think for all of us. This is a year of resistance and I am happy that we can play 162 this year ”.
Alonso slumped early last season and showed improvement in mid-August, but the Mets were quarantined for a week after a player and coach tested positive for COVID-19, and that momentum stopped. Alonso started another wave at the end of the season.
“I’m very happy that last year happened as it did, because I feel like I’m very prepared for this year and last year I exposed a lot of things that I needed to improve on and I’m ready to start,” Alonso said. “I’m ready to have fun and go out and play.”
Without the universal designated hitter in place, Alonso will set up like regular first baseman. If an agreement is reached to implement the universal designated hitter before the season between MLB and MLBPA, it could put Dominic Smith on defensively superior first base most of the time, with Alonso as designated.
“I think I’m a really good first baseman and I just want to play ball,” Alonso said. “I’m first baseman and I’m a position player. I am not a DH. I don’t want to be labeled like that because I’ve worked too hard and I feel like I’ve played well.
“In 2019 I played very well at first base. In 2020 I didn’t have my best year, be it offensive or defensive, but this year I have a great opportunity and I want to grow as a person and as a player and I feel like I will never think of myself as a designated hitter. I will always consider myself a first baseman. “
Alonso came to camp last year with the goal of winning a Gold Glove and finishing the season in a “drunk as hell” parade of floats. It answered yes on Friday when asked if it had the same goals for 2021.
“It’s going to be a good year,” Alonso said.