PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It was one of the signature moments of Mets spring training. And you'd better believe Pete Alonso was right in the middle of it.
On March 10, the Mets completed a drill called "27 Outs" in which the defense had to record 27 outs from balls hit by a coach without making an error.
The Mets were poised for No. 27 when coach Tony Tarasco yelled for the team to celebrate as if it had just won Game 7 of the World Series. Tarasco faked hitting a long drive to right, Michael Conforto faked making an over-the-wall grab, and the Mets faked celebrated, throwing up their gloves and jumping all over each other on the grass behind second base.
Videos of the real-looking celebration went viral, with naysayers ripping the Mets for acting as if they had done something the organization hasn’t accomplished in the real world since 1986.
To which Alonso said, quite politely, go jump in a lake.
"You’ve got to practice it if it’s going to happen, you know?" he said. "Practicing it is a good thing because you’re kind of thinking that way. You’re preparing for it and that’s a tangible way to kind of prepare and think about going forward, because that is the ultimate goal."
It’s the ultimate team goal, for sure. Alonso’s personal goal in his third big-league season is to flash back to his scintillating National League Rookie of the Year campaign of 2019 and erase the bad memories of a 2020 season that, for him, was not cause for celebration.
In 2019, Alonso hit .260 with a Mets-record 53 home runs, 120 RBIs and a .941 OPS. He also broke the MLB record for homers by a rookie, and he was the toast of Flushing.
In 2020, Alonso hit .231 with 16 home runs, 35 RBIs and an .817 OPS. Not terrible, but not what he expects from himself.
"This is going to be a big year for us," he said. "We have such a talented lineup with the new additions, and with that, there is expectations to win, and for me, I just want to be locked in and ready to go."
The 26-year-old had to bring a big bag of patience with him to spring training. Alonso knows he chased too many balls in 2020 as pitchers learned they could expand the zone on him. As he got more anxious, pitchers got a little more crafty in placing pitches just outside the strike zone. And then a little more. And then a little more.
"Pete is a hard worker," manager Luis Rojas said. "He’s always trying to get better. And whenever he doesn’t get results, he’s going to try harder. But we’re seeing probably a little more experience in terms of handling that from at-bat to at-bat. He’s not trying to find out what can work. It seems like he already knows what works for him and he’s just repeating. Even though if he has failure in that at-bat, he will come the next time and you will see him repeating. He will get his pitch. He doesn’t need to try harder. He just needs to bring his approach to the plate and he’ll get results."
Alonso’s first home run of spring training was an opposite-field grand slam on March 4. It came on Alonso’s mother’s birthday, and she was in the stands at Clover Park.
"Big shout-out: Happy birthday, Mom," Alonso said after the game. "Glad I could get a birthday bomb for you."
Bet there was a big celebration among the Alonso family after that one — the first celebration of what Pete hopes are many, and that last deep into October.
Pete Alonso’s career totals