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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Can we play another 162 with Mets slugger Pete Alonso right now?

Mets' Pete Alonso is greeted in the dugout

Mets' Pete Alonso is greeted in the dugout after he hit his 53rd home run to break the single season rookie home run record during an MLB baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Pete Alonso is a polar bear, a home run hitter, a bringer of joy and a heck of a baseball player.

When the final pitch of this Mets season is thrown Sunday afternoon, it will be natural for fans to lament what could have been. When your team finishes within spitting distance of a playoff spot, it’s hard to call the season a success.

But when you discover, nourish and watch a talent like Alonso, it’s hard to call that part of the season anything but a success. A rousing one.

Alonso broke Aaron Judge’s rookie home run record in the third inning of the Mets’ 3-0 victory over the Braves on Saturday night. It was his 53rd homer of the season.

Alonso swung at a 2-and-1 pitch from Mike Foltynewicz and drove it into the first row of the right-centerfield bleachers.

He watched the flight of the ball as he walked, the bat in his right hand, toward first base. When it landed, he raised his arms and pointed his index fingers at the sky. After his all-smiles trip around the bases, he pointed at the fans, pumped his fists and hugged the stuffing out of each and every one of his teammates.

Is there any doubt Alonso would have done the same to each and every one of the 32,210 fans at Citi Field on Saturday night? The tears in his eyes after he took his defensive position for the top of the fourth tells you the answer is yes.

“I’m speechless,” Alonso said on the field after the game as the remaining crowd listened and cheered. “I was just overwhelmed by so many emotions.”

The fans love Alonso and Alonso loves the fans. So, as the Mets go home after Sunday’s game, they have the beloved Polar Bear going for them in 2020.

Remember, the Mets decided not to call up Alonso for a taste of big-league life last September after he hit 36 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A. But that was under a three-person interim general manager regime that followed the departure of Sandy Alderson and pre-dated the hiring of former agent Brodie Van Wagenen.

One of Wagenen’s earliest — and, to date, best — moves was to fly to Arizona in November to have dinner with Alonso soon after getting the job.

How many GMs would do that to meet with a player who hadn’t seen a big-league pitch and wasn’t assured of making the team out of spring training? Whatever motivated Van Wagenen, it obviously was a turning point in Alonso’s relationship with the team.

Maybe Van Wagenen’s next move should be to lock up Alonso with a 10-year contract. Heck, make it a lifetime deal.

Alonso has a chance to be as big a star as anyone in this town. He’s unique, he’s personable, he’s civic-minded and, most importantly, he’s really good at baseball.

He’s different from Judge, who is cool and reserved in a Derek Jeter sort of way. Judge, who set the old rookie record way back in 2017, always says the right thing. The right thing often can be quite bland.

Alonso is not bland. Not when he wins the All-Star Game Home Run Derby and donates 10 percent of his $1 million prize to charity, then thanks the charities for allowing him to contribute.

Not when he’s spelling out “LFGM” — a winking take on “Let’s Go Mets!” with an extra word that Alonso said “every true Met fan knows” — over the Citi Field loudspeakers, as he did after an Aug. 5 victory over the Marlins.

Not when he’s getting 9/11 themed cleats for his teammates and having them all wear the shoes during the team’s Sept. 11 game, even though he knew Major League Baseball would frown on it. His cleats from that game will be donated Tuesday to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s permanent collection.

Alonso gets it.

And Mets fans get to watch it. When does spring training begin?





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