Pete Alonso 'living a fantasy' during Mets' rookie season | News Coverage from USA

Pete Alonso ‘living a fantasy’ during Mets’ rookie season

CLEVELAND – It has all been a little bit surreal for Pete Alonso, be it demolishing Darryl Strawberry’s New York Mets rookie record for home runs in less than half a season, to earning the almost immediate respect of veteran teammates, to the piece of artwork a boy named Nico handed him that depicts him as a polar bear, a sketch now proudly affixed to his apartment refrigerator.

Yet it all got a little bit weirder for Alonso once the hulking first baseman arrived for his first All-Star Game. Oh, the eminently confident 24-year-old was not necessarily surprised he was here, but rather taken aback by who wasn’t.

“I’m an All-Star and my idol, the guy I want to emulate, is Paul Goldschmidt,” Alonso said Monday in his first taste of national media exposure at the 90th All-Star Game. “And he’s not here. And I am. That’s the most humbling thing about this.

“Guys like Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt – those guys are All-Stars, and I’m here and they’re not. For me, it’s – not surprising, but very humbling and I’m at a loss for words.”

This is all part of Alonso’s new reality. It was widely assumed he’d be off the Mets’ opening-day roster, not on merit but merely so the club could harvest a seventh year of service from his immense talents. Instead, they did right by him and he more than paid them back with a monstrous first half:

Thirty home runs. A .280 batting average and a 1.006 OPS. A top five National League ranking in 14 offensive categories.

And a trip to Progressive Field, where on Monday night he may truly seize the national spotlight with a turn in the Home Run Derby, followed by his first All-Star appearance on Tuesday.

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So it might seem odd to Alonso that Goldschmidt and Votto, each with six All-Star appearances, are free this week while Alonso joins Josh Bell and Freddie Freeman as the power trio repping the NL at first base.

But this is now. And Alonso is that guy, the sort he once idolized, even if just a few short years ago.

“It’s been so extremely special,” he says. “I’m living a fantasy right now. I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I’m just so happy to be here.”

And that brings us to Nico.

Alonso has embraced his role as an ambassador for the game, and seems easily moved when realizing his potential impact, be it in pledging 10% of his possible Home Run Derby proceeds to organizations benefiting wounded veterans or emergency personnel, or the simple interactions that come with being a larger-than-life figure.

When this Nico handed Alonso a drawing, he assumed the young fan wanted him to sign it. It depicted Alonso as a polar bear – the nickname bestowed upon him by teammates – and the young man held a ball and a bat.

“He said, ‘This is you, and this is me,’” Alonso recounts. “I said, ‘Do you want me to sign it?’” And he said, ‘No, this is for you to have.’ I thought it was touching.

“I grew up kind of idolizing ballplayers. It was touching and made my heart melt a little bit.”

Such is the humbling power of a platform forged on longballs.

Alonso is on pace to supplant Aaron Judge (54 homers in 2017) and Mark McGwire (49 homers in 1987) atop the rookie home run record list. His production is borne of conviction, approach, sheer power and an athletic ability that belies his 6-3, 245-pound frame.

“He’s just got incredible power,” says Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, who held him to a single in three at-bats in a May encounter. “ That starts there. and then his ability to conduct an at-bat is secondary. He fouls pitches off really well. The good hitters hit the mistakes really far. He’s not missing mistakes, putting in good at-bats and walking and is a very tough out.

“He looked like he was ready last year and for whatever reason, he wasn’t called up and probably should’ve been. He knew he was ready. He obviously has the belief he belonged here and proved himself right.”

That belief was reinforced after the Mets told him he’d made the opening-day roster, and veterans on the club told him to ignore the fact he hadn’t done a thing at the big league level.

“They were like, ‘You know what? By you breaking with the team and being in here, that should give you all the confidence in the world,’” Alonso recalls. “’You’re here. You’re here with guys who have been in the league for 10 years and every single one, on any given night, has a chance to do something great.

“And whether you have 15 years of time, or no days of time, as long as you’re in the big leagues, you have a chance to do something special.”

Even a typically weird and relatively disappointing Mets season hasn’t dimmed his light. Best job in the world, Alonso insists, and he’s so jazzed to come to the ballpark every day, he insists that “I almost don’t need a cup of coffee to wake up in the morning.”

It’s not hard to believe him. There will be failure in his career, at some point, and perhaps the potential to be something less than universally revered, as it seems he is right now.

And so he says he will “open his eyes and look around” this week, taking it all in and reflecting on the time he was a freshman at the University of Florida, wondering if there was a future for him professionally after he flailed through his first year of college ball.

Plenty has changed since, and will in the future. For now, Alonso will try to pause and revel in it all.

“All the people who gave me the thumbs up, the people who believed in me, I’m just looking to make those people proud,” he says, “and prove them right.”

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