Count Pete Alonso among those thoroughly enthused about Major League Baseball’s nascent plan to stage the entire 2020 season in Arizona.
That is just one of the creative solutions under consideration to salvage the baseball year amid the coronavirus pandemic. But it's one that Alonso, who is home in Tampa waiting to start his second major-league season, is excited about.
“I feel like that’s pretty realistic,” he said of the loose plan to effectively sequester hundreds of players, coaches and staff members in their hotels, buses and ballparks and have them play every game in the Phoenix area, mostly at Cactus League spring training facilities with no fans in the stands. “But also, I’m not a member of the CDC. At the end of the day, they’re the people that have to give the thumbs-up or the green light.”
Alonso — speaking this week on “The Jake Mangum Show,” a podcast/YouTube show newly created and hosted by Mets minor-leaguer Jake Mangum — said the logistics of the Cactus League are part of why the Arizona plan appeals to him.
He became familiar with that setup in 2018 when he played in the Arizona Fall League, which also uses these stadiums.
“In Arizona, for you guys who aren’t necessarily familiar with it, every team is within 45 minutes of each other. The complexes there are absolutely supreme,” Alonso said. “Because it’s nice, high altitude and thin desert air, the ball flies a little bit better. Arizona, especially in that Phoenix area, is very conducive to baseball. Obviously not as much rain. For all the seasons to get done, that’s going to be a pretty good thing that’s going to happen.”
There are, to be clear, a lot of unanswered questions about the Arizona plan, which is a long way from becoming a reality.
MLB also is considering a one-year realignment to use the spring training Grapefruit and Cactus leagues in the regular season, according to a USA Today report Friday. That would put the Mets in a temporary division with their most frequent exhibition opponents: the Nationals, Astros, Marlins and Cardinals.
MLB is not close to making a decision, largely because no one knows when the coronavirus will be under control enough for sports and regular life to resume. But for Alonso and everyone else sitting around, waiting out the pandemic and hoping baseball will return, contingency plans are a glimmer of hope.
“For us, in this very unprecedented time, I feel like people lean on sports as a coping mechanism or stress relief,” Alonso said. “There’s no sense of stability without sports, in my opinion. I feel like they want to get sports and I guess other institutions back as quickly as possible, just so we can have some sort of semblance of normalcy. Even if they aren’t played with people in the stands.”
In the meantime, Alonso is trying to stay ready at home. He said he has been lifting, running, hitting in the cage, taking grounders and throwing to bases in recent weeks. “Doing pretty much everything I can to stay in shape,” he said. “Trying to stay in as much of a routine as I possibly can.”
Alonso suspects a second pseudo-spring training might be just a week and a half. That would be extremely short for pitchers in particular, but he wants to be prepared for anything. “This hiatus, we need to stay ready as much as possible,” he said. “I think the ‘camp’ when we get back is going to be, like, 10 days, if that. Then the season might start. We gotta be as ready as possible whenever the call comes in.”