Pete Alonso has landed in the perfect place to showcase who he is as a big league ballplayer. Only in New York and particularly as a Met could this happen. Jon Updike, the scout who signed him obviously saw the athleticism and power of this young prospect. But he also saw the outstanding makeup of this kid, something that all the analytics and algorithms can not see.
All the more interesting is that as we see real good scouts being pushed out of baseball, Updike left the Mets to become President of Digital Scouting and Player Development Solutions at Baseball Cloud, a company focused on bringing cutting-edge technology into the college game. He must have a business card the size of first base with that title.
But that is not what I want to talk about today. I want to revisit a very special night for all Mets’ fans and personally for me.
Even if you’re not a Mets’ fan, you have to like this kid. I was there when he broke Aaron Judge’s record of 52 homers as a rookie. It came in the third inning off of the Braves number one starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. That shot sailed over the center-field fence for his 53rd home run last year. There was the customary mob scene by his teammates in front of and in the dugout. Then he went back out to first base to more cheers when the inning ended.
He tossed a practice throw to Robinson Cano, who would not throw the ball back to him, allowing the large crowd of 32,210 to continue to give him another standing ovation. Those fans came to see him get that record on the next to last night of the season when the Mets had been eliminated from contention. That was something this kid knew and he was determined to not disappoint them. As he stood at first base, I focused my binoculars on him and saw tears stream down the face of this giant they call, “The Bear.” Something that gave me chills.
I was at both Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, that was a HR and Álex Rodríguez’s 3000th that was also a HR. I always thought that Jeter’s was the best milestone I had ever seen, until I saw Alonso’s record breaking moment. Both Jeter and A Rod were happy but having done so many great things in their careers, they didn’t have the same moving response that this kid showed that night.
I think maybe because he was so emotionally taken by the moment and that he was a rookie. Or maybe it was the response of the crowd that made me feel that I was so fortunate to have been there. To feel the emotion of all those loyal Mets’ fans as they showed their love and appreciation for their new star, was something we only get to experience once in a while, if we are lucky enough.
I love to stay late after a game. When all the noise of the crowd leaves these stadiums and the lights are only half lit, the only sights and sounds are the grounds crews doing their work. There is a quiet sense of calmness that comes over you.
About an hour after that game, when the stadium was void of fans, Alonso came out onto the field with his mom, dad and girlfriend. He looked up at the empty seats and walked around with his family, slowly taking it all in for a half hour or more. For “The Bear,” it had to be another emotional moment as he kept slowly shaking his head from side to side. As I watched this all unfold in the dim lit empty stadium I could see the amazed look on his face as if to say, “What just happened here? Did this just happen to me?”
What I was witnessing was what baseball had always meant to me growing up. As kids, we all envisioned ourselves hitting that game winning HR to win the World Series or pitching a perfect game in the big leagues. The pure innocence of a kid and his dreams coming true was on stage that night at CitiField. It was the culmination of years of focused determination and hard work for big Pete. From the age of three all he wanted to be was a big league ballplayer.
My belief is that this kid will never stop showing not only what he can do with a bat but how he shows his love for this game and the fans. That night last year at CitiField in Queens was one to remember.