Pete Alonso has caught the attention of at least one prominent fan in the Bronx.
Aaron Judge has been sidelined since April 21 with an oblique strain, but the injury has given him additional time to track the breakout season of the Mets’ rookie slugger. Alonso tied Mark McGwire’s rookie record for home runs before June 1 with 19, two more than Judge managed by that date during his unanimous Rookie of the Year campaign in 2017.
“It’s hard not to notice what he’s been doing. The spark he’s been giving the Mets and the spark he’s been giving the city, you can see that. He’s fun to watch,” Judge said before Saturday’s game against the Red Sox at the Stadium. “Every time he comes to the plate, you tune in, you can’t leave your seat. He’s something special and I’m excited for what the rest of the year is going to hold for him.
“All-Star, Home Run Derby, whatever else happens, he’s been real fun to watch. Any time you can be alongside Mark McGwire, one of the greatest power hitters in the history of the game, that’s something special.”
Judge batted .179 with 42 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances with the Yankees late in the 2016 season but erupted for 17 home runs through May 31 and 52 overall in 2017. He finished second to Houston’s Jose Altuve in the AL MVP voting.
“You can appreciate it more looking back on it now,” Judge said. “When you’re in the middle of it, you’re treating everything one day at a time. You’re there to do a job. It’s never, ‘Hey, look what I’m doing.’ You never have that mindset. You have the mindset that you have a job to do for your team and just trying to do the best you can.
“But I’ve been watching how [Alonso] goes about his business and how he works, and you definitely can see that same mentality in him. I think that’s why I’m most excited for him.“
Judge added that he first took note of Alonso’s prodigious power during the All-Star festivities last summer in Washington, when the Mets prospect belted a home run in the Futures Game.
“I remember hearing that, and then seeing what he did in spring training this year, I remember thinking this is a special kid and there’s no way the Mets can keep this kid down in the minor leagues,” Judge said. “Then when he just started tearing it up the first month, and now two months, it’s impossible not to notice him and be impressed by him.
“Because he seems like a great kid, too. Watching his interviews and hearing how he talks about his teammates and how he approaches certain situations, he’s a professional. And that’s great to see for a young guy.”
Judge also offered advice about whether Alonso, 24, should participate in the 2019 Home Run Derby in July. The Yankees slugger won the competition in 2017 but suffered a shoulder injury in the process and slumped for much of the second half before finishing his rookie season with a flourish, hitting 15 home runs in September.
“If he wants to do it, he should go ahead and do it,” Judge said of the Home Run Derby. “It’s a fun experience and you get a big adrenaline jolt from the fans. The fans are really into it. It’s just a great competition and it’s a lot of fun. I think if he does it, he’ll enjoy it and I don’t see why he wouldn’t do pretty well in it. I think I’d put my money on him.”