Pete Alonso searches around for the right words, trying a few different ones for size. He goes with miraculous a couple of times, then marvelous. He calls himself the “luckiest guy on Earth,” and then, for the sake of being thorough, he offers, “super-incredibly amazing awesome.”
That’s how he described this season, this rookie year in the big leagues, and the fact that he has a chance to eclipse the all-time major league rookie home run record. Going into Tuesday, he was only two shy of Aaron Judge’s mark of 52.
Gratitude is not often a feeling found on a team on the very brink of playoff elimination. And make no mistake, Alonso has taken every loss about as hard as anyone, but Tuesday, with the end of the season looming, the Mets rookie phenom took a moment to appraise the big picture. He still marvels, even 156 games later, at the fact that this is his life now. He reminds people that the Mets “didn’t have to call me up” after he tore apart spring training with the vigor of…well…a very hungry polar bear.
After becoming an All Star, establishing himself as the emotional center of this team, winning the Home Run Derby, and smashing a slew of franchise records, he’s excited that he finally accomplished the goal he set out in the very beginning.
“I wanted to prove to everyone that I could be a big-league player,” Alonso said. “I’m going to remember this season the rest of my life — making the team and being able to be successful. It’s been miraculous.”
That dream may have been a touch modest, in retrospect.
And regardless of the season's disappointment, and the fact that the Mets roared back in the second half only to fall short of catching the teams in front of them in the National League wild-card hunt, Alonso’s year has been one of a significant number of bright spots. Jacob deGrom will contend for his second straight NL Cy Young Award. Alonso seems to be a lock for Rookie of the year. Mickey Callaway thinks he can even be MVP, though that’s a pretty big longshot.
“He’s the next David Wright in this organization, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Callaway said, invoking about the highest form of praise around these parts. “He’s a guy that wants to win and he leads the celebrations, he leads the charge. It’s been impressive and what’s even more impressive is that we have some veterans in there that have been around a long time and they allow Pete to be himself. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Alonso is probably years off from getting a “C” on his chest, but he does seem to be the heir apparent. What’s even more interesting is that the veterans have been open to his form of leadership, the “being Pete” of it all. Callaway said Robinson Cano, in particular, told him before the season that it was vital to let the rookies, the foremost of which was Alonso, be who they are.
Alonso, as any good rookie would, demurs when called a leader.
“I want to do my part and I just want to be accountable for my actions and I just want to help other people,” he said. “I didn’t really say, hey, I want to be a leader. I don’t want to assume a position or anything like that…I want to be Pete and help my teammates get better and try to be the best person and best teammate that I can.”
He was behind the custom-made cleats the Mets wore on 9/11 to honor first responders. And, oh yeah: Going into Tuesday, he held the Mets single-season record for homers (50), total bases (335) and extra-base hits (82). He also holds the rookie records for RBIs (115), runs (98), and hits (151).
The only other big record in his sights is the very big one. The one Judge holds.
“I think there’s a little over 19,000 major-league baseball players to ever play the game and to be the only one, that would be miraculous,” Alonso said. “It would mean the world. I can’t give you a certain word and I can’t give you a certain feeling because I don’t think it would fully set in right away. Even though it would be super-incredibly amazing awesome.”
And even if this ride ends sooner rather than later, Alonso said he was still grateful.
“I wouldn’t change anything for the world," he said. "I understand there are some growing pains, but everything can’t happen overnight.”
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