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Pete Alonso, happy to be playing baseball, has renewed goals for 2020

2020-07-25

The pure joy emanating from Pete Alonso was palpable — even through a Zoom press conference. The Mets’ first exhibition game since March was enough for the buoyant first baseman to reflect on the difficult circumstances that led Alonso back to his regular position on Saturday night.

“During this quarantine, or second offseason, it was kind of hopes up high, head down low,” Alonso said. “You hope and want and dream in order to get back, but you have to take one day at a time because, really, there was a lot of unknown. We didn’t necessarily know how the future would unfold or what would happen.

“But now we’re happy to be back, and I think that us being back and playing baseball again is just such an incredible thing and I’m really excited to get back out there.”

When Alonso returned to Citi Field earlier this month, he walked to first base and picked up the infield dirt just to make sure it was real; that baseball was really back. The Mets’ exhibition game against the Yankees on Saturday was another distinct sign that this sport can seemingly overcome the incalculable challenges that, at one point, made the impending 60-game season sound like a farce.

The regulations, at least inside the Citi Field bubble, were followed. The tests were taken. Social-distancing parameters were exaggerated. The effort from Alonso’s teammates, coaches and bosses allowed the first baseman to go 2-for-4 with an RBI in Saturday’s exhibition game. But those statistics don’t count yet. In just six days, Alonso will begin his sophomore campaign and Mets fans shouldn’t be surprised that he’s got some big dreams for 2020.

“I want to approach every single day with a relentless attitude and I want to be as productive as I possibly can,” Alonso said. “Whether it’s coming in clutch with a hit, a play on defense, a homer, there’s a lot of different ways I can help my team win a ballgame and ultimately I want to help my team get to the postseason and win a championship. However I can help win, that’s who I want to be.”

In 2019, he became the first rookie in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) to finish a season as the majors’ outright leader in homers with 53. Alonso knows his historic rookie season will be hard to eclipse, but next on his list of goals is winning a Gold Glove award. No big deal, but the last and only Mets first baseman to win the award was Keith Hernandez in 1983.

Alonso is a sponge when it comes to baseball. He enjoys gaining knowledge from experienced coaches to veteran teammates and if he was to one day win the Gold Glove, it would cap quite the journey

He was crushing home runs, as he so often does, in Triple-A back in 2018. Instead of calling him up in September that season, the Mets opted to keep him down because his glove wasn’t ready for The Show. The team again referenced Alonso’s average defense before adding him to the big-league roster last year. Alonso’s defensive ability exceeded expectations in his rookie season, and the 25-year-old is compelled to erase those early doubts.

“I try to take as many mental notes or ask questions as possible, but at the end of the day for me I feel like the more experience I gain the more I can become a master at my position,” Alonso said. “And one day hopefully I can become an alchemist and turn my leather glove into gold. So that’s going to be one of the main goals of my career.”

Last year, Alonso was one of the last players out of the Mets clubhouse after games. He would sit at his locker, crouched over a marble notebook, and jot down notes from his at-bats, his plays; anything that stood out to him that he could learn from that day.

Alonso’s not a rookie anymore. He’s already validated that he belongs under the bright lights at Citi Field. But he’s still learning, and his goals won’t be accomplished without the routine that allowed him to take first base on Saturday.

“It may not be a marble notebook, but I still got a notebook,” he said. “And instead of 2019, it’s labeled 2020.”