LAS VEGAS — If visiting all four corners of the contiguous United States, leading the minor leagues in home runs, getting engaged and forcing his way into the Mets’ 2019 Opening Day plans — all before his 24th birthday last week — didn’t make for an eventful-enough year for prospect Peter Alonso, he visited the winter meetings and told an apparently inspirational story about pasta.
Early in the first baseman’s time with Triple-A Las Vegas — during a period of adjustment to the greater level of competition — manager Tony DeFrancesco called him into his office for a chat.
DeFrancesco’s message was … well, Alonso wasn’t sure at first.
“He’s just like, ‘Listen, if you’re having family dinner, you got to have a special sauce made. And you know what? You have all the ingredients nice and perfect, nice and perfect. You need to have everything all set,’” Alonso recalled Monday during his speech at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino after receiving the Joe Bauman Home Run Award as the minors’ dinger leader.
“’But then your family members start messing up. They put a little too much garlic, a little too much tomato, a little too much salt. You know what? The sauce tastes terrible and dinner is ruined. You’re left with only noodles. Capisce?’”
Alonso said he thought about DeFrancesco’s metaphor for a week before it clicked: Be himself.
“(DeFrancesco is) like a weird Italian uncle who has these weird -isms but isn’t the best at explaining them, but after you think on it a little while (it makes sense),” Alonso said in an interview afterward.
Or, as he put it in his speech: “Pretty much what he was trying to convey in his messed-up way is just stick to who you are. For me, it’s just see ball, hit ball. Staying with that approach, it made me have a really successful year.”
The absence of an article in Alonso’s “see ball, hit ball” philosophy is on purpose, a way to hammer home how simple — for Alonso, at least — that is.
Alonso said his teammates in Double-A Binghamton started called him “Caveman,” and he even had a nameplate that said “Oog” — as in, a caveman’s name — above his locker.
“It’s like, ‘Oog, see ball, hit ball,’” Alonso said. “That approach worked and now Oog’s getting an award.”
Alonso has a shot at being the Mets’ Opening Day first baseman, with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen going as far as saying he hopes Alonso wins the job.
The Mets’ first-base situation is simpler now that Jay Bruce, who played a lot of first at the end of last season, was traded to the Mariners in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz deal.
That creates an opportunity for Alonso, though first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith is also still in the picture.
Van Wagenen met with Alonso last month in Arizona, while Alonso was playing in the Arizona Fall League, to impress upon him how much the Mets value him.
“He was telling me everything to excite me, not to stress me out,” Alonso said. “Pretty much just ‘if you do your part, just show up and have fun with it.’ … Every kid wants to play in the big leagues. I just want to hit the ground running once spring comes.”