PHILADELPHIA — The question was going to come eventually, so mid-April seems as good a time as any.
If the powers-that-be asked him, would Pete Alonso want to participate in the Home Run Derby?
“Absolutely,” the Mets’ 24-year-old slugger of a first baseman said this week. “That would be a blast. That would be a hell of a time.”
MLB’s annual homer-hitting competition isn’t until July 8 in Cleveland, so Alonso will need to prove himself by continuing his strong start — including six homers and a .323/.413/.708 slash line heading into the Mets’ series with the Cardinals starting Friday — between now and then.
But he already is showing all the makings of a great fit: prodigious power that gets him mentioned alongside former Derby winners Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, plus an enthusiastic, excitable personality that would seem to do well on a national stage.
Twenty-two days into his major-league career, Alonso isn’t afraid to admit that participating in the Home Run Derby someday is something he has long thought about.
“It’s one of those things that would be extremely fun to compete in, against the prolific power hitters from other teams and the other league,” Alonso said. “If I got invited, I’d love to do it. It’s something that’d be really fun. I’m sure during All-Star week it’d be an electric environment.”
(New this year to the Derby: The winner gets $1 million. That’s about 180 percent of Alonso’s salary this year, the $555,000 league minimum.)
Of Alonso’s half-dozen homers, none was more striking than last week’s blast against the Braves into the elevated fountain in centerfield at SunTrust Park. At 454 feet, it was the longest of his career. At 118.3 mph, it was the hardest-hit ball in the majors this year and the hardest by anyone other than Judge and Stanton in the five seasons since MLB began tracking such numbers.
Alonso left even himself in awe, saying afterward, “To see it hit the water, like, wow.”
That wasn’t the only recent Pete Feat. During the Mets’ trip to Miami this month, Alonso blasted batting practice pitches to parts of Marlins Park that Judge wore out when he won the 2017 Home Run Derby there — including the leftfield concourse, which is behind a bar, which is on a second floor above another bar, which is behind several rows of seats.
When did Alonso realize he could hit the ball harder than most everybody else? He doesn’t remember. “It’s just always been that way,” he said. “I’ve always hit the ball hard.”
And so he has become something of a Home Run Derby junkie — although, Alonso noted, in the couple of derbies he has competed in through the years, “I haven’t actually done well.”
His favorite Derby-watching memory: Josh Hamilton at Yankee Stadium in 2008, the summer before Alonso entered the eighth grade. Hamilton mashed a record 28 dingers in the first round but went on to lose to Justin Morneau.
“But that first round,” said Alonso, who periodically, including multiple occasions last year, watches the video of Hamilton’s first round on YouTube. “I can’t believe he didn’t win.”
Three current Mets are former Derby champs: Robinson Cano (2011), Yoenis Cespedes (2013 and 2014) and Todd Frazier (2015). But the team hasn’t been represented in the competition since David Wright in 2013, when it was at Citi Field. Before that, Wright in 2006. Before that, Bobby Bonilla in 1993.
Maybe that will change with Alonso.
“I’d be honored to do it,” he said. “It’d be fun. It’d be a really cool show.”
Pete Alonso wouldn’t mind the exposure that comes with participation in the Home Run Derby. The most-watched Derbies: Rank Year Winner Ballpark Viewers (millions)
1. 2008 Justin Morneau Yankee Stadium 9.1
2. 2017 Aaron Judge Marlins Park 8.6
3. 2009 Prince Fielder Busch Stadium 8.3
4. 2004 Miguel Tejada Minute Maid Park 7.7
5. 2002 Jason Giambi Miller Park 7.7
6. 2015 Todd Frazier Great American Ball Park 7.1
7. 2012 Prince Fielder Kauffman Stadium 6.9
8. 2007 Vladimir Guerrero AT&T Park 6.8
9. 2006 Ryan Howard PNC Park 6.8
10. 2013 Yoenis Céspedes Citi Field 6.7