PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Move over Jimmy Fallon. Watch your back Stephen Colbert. The next big name in the TV talk show arena is looking like Pete Alonso, performing nightly at Citi Field, courtesy of a microphone implanted at first base.
It’s the next frontier for MLB in the never-ending quest to pump up the sport’s entertainment value. And if you need a pioneer in that department, Alonso’s your man.
Viewers who tuned into ESPN’s “All-Access” broadcast Wednesday afternoon between the Mets and Cardinals got a sneak peek into the concept. Alonso was the first Met to be mic’d up — at first base, at the plate, in the dugout — and a handful of his teammates followed.
Dom Smith, standing at his post in leftfield, took a playful jab at J.D. Davis, a former 2017 Astro, by saying, “J.D. has a ton of cheat sheets ... you know what I’m saying?”
Earlier in the game, Smith launched a long fly ball that was caught at the warning track. Davis’ take for everyone to hear?
“If you weren’t so skinny, that might have gone out,” Davis said.
This is the type of revealing, insider-y, reality-show content that baseball fans have been craving, and precisely why MLB officials approached Alonso’s agent to figure out a way to make it happen during the regular season. Alonso stole the All-Star Week stage last year with his mic’d up performances — he won a dramatic Home Run Derby — and left everyone wanting more.
“I gave the OK to mic up first base,” Alonso said. “Just because everyone’s always asked me, What did you talk about at first base? I’m open to trying different things to help grow the game because for me I want to be a positive ambassador. To the best of my ability.”
Alonso seems to genuinely enjoy those efforts. And his everyman vibe in this type of setting, with opposing players rolling up to him, like Freddie Freeman or Anthony Rendon or Kris Bryant, reminds me of a cross between the SNL skit, “The Chris Farley Show” and the Zach Galifianakis vehicle “Between Two Ferns.”
Alonso provided a snippet Wednesday (during a 17-minute chat on the subject) of what this could look like when he recalled a first-base encounter with Freeman last season. As Alonso kept Freeman close to the bag, he asked him about his off day, and the two chatted about wine.
Freeman told him he “had a lovely bottle with dinner” and mentioned it was a Screaming Eagle cabernet, one with which Alonso was unfamiliar. Probably because it goes for a few grand, a little beyond Alonso’s MLB minimum price point.
“You’ll know it later on, when you get your big contract,” Freeman told Alonso, who described the Braves’ first baseman as a “big wino.”
But that was only one episode. There was another with Bryant, who asked Alonso about the ax-handle bat he currently was using. Alonso then sent one over to the Cubs’ clubhouse — in the middle of the series, which turned out to be a rookie mistake.
“He ended up hitting like a two-RBI double against us,” Alonso said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, Pete, why did you do that?’ ”
Another one of Alonso’s favorites is Anthony Rendon, and he recalled a first-base conversation when the former National was impressed with his quick start to the season.
“He’s like, dude, you gotta ask Mick [Callaway] if the phone’s ringing in the dugout because I think the Moon League is calling,” Rendon told him. “Just keep it up. There’s nowhere to go from here.”
Alonso just seems to be a magnet for this kind of interaction, on a Mets’ team that showed a ton of fun-loving chemistry during Wednesday’s broadcast. But duplicating these “All-Access” broadcasts during the regular season is a different story. Spring training’s laid-back mode makes for a perfect TV studio. These are just practice games. Wearing a mic when the stakes are way higher, in an ultra-heated environment, is something that the players aren’t ready to sign off on, as much as MLB would love it. But Alonso thought wiring first base is a workable compromise, and the plan right now is to post the recordings afterward, not show them live.
“I think there’s different multiple ways to grow the game and get the flavor of each personality out there,” Alonso said.
Alonso has personality to spare. As Wednesday’s session was winding down, he even offered his own wine recommendation when a reporter asked for a bottle in the $20-$30 range. His pick? A Mollydooker cabernet. Just make sure to twist off the cap, pour about an ounce out, then screw the cap back on and shake it up.
“The reason why you shake it up is because there’s so many nitrites in the wine,” Alonso said. “Then it bubbles up, lets the wine breathe, and creates this really, really nice flavor. For a really good price.”
All that, and 53 home runs. I’d say that’s worth tuning in for.