Pete Alonso is the Mets’ gladiator.
And much like the one Russell Crowe made famous 20 years ago in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Alonso began the restart much like Maximus Decimus Meridius.
He felt the dirt.
I just put my hands on the ground just to feel the dirt just to make sure it’s real,” he said. “Just being here and being able to play baseball, just do my job, I just have a much higher appreciation for this game and this opportunity.
“I have this love-affair for baseball and it made my love for it grow even more. It means so much to me.”
So much so that he would say he’s “geeked-up” for the season to start. Unlike some other players around the league, who are begrudgingly back, the Mets Rookie of the Year couldn’t wait to get back to the field.
Sure, he thinks it’s “not ideal.” Who wouldn’t with all the social distancing protocols and playing without fans in the stands? Alonso, though, feels safer in Queens than many other players do around the league.
“I feel great about the protocols here in New York,” he said. “I feel like this is a city that was affected a lot by this whole thing — more than a lot of places. Here at Citi Field, the protocols have been very regimented and this whole process has been actually awesome because we’re being tested every other day, we’re getting results prompt and quick… I feel safe. As a whole organization, we’re taking this thing very seriously because at the end of the day, if guys aren’t healthy and they’re sick, we won’t even be able to play.”
Of course this year will be different. Last season, Alonso became a fan favorite, not just by hitting 53 homers, but also creating a number of on the field celebrations, including, pulling off jerseys and various High-5 celebrations.
Those have to go this year, but Alonso is planning on something new as the season starts. What it is? Well he doesn’t know yet.
“We have a real good chemistry, we have some good things going in the clubhouse and we’ll figure something out,” Alonso said. “You will see some fun antics during the season. We don’t know what yet, but it’s got to come out naturally.”
But it will be different, especially with no fans in the stands. Alonso knows, the Mets have more than 40,000 fans and there are always more watching at home.
“For me, I know that every single New York Met fan is going to be watching at home,” he said. “You could have hundreds of thousands of people, [and we’re] putting a smile on their face… Every time [Jacob deGrom] goes out there and strikes out the side or [Michael Conforto] or [JD Davis] or [Brandon Nimmo] makes a diving play, or [Yoenis Cespedes] hits a go-ahead home run, that’s going to make people so happy.”
Speaking of Cespedes, Alonso seems also very happy to have the slugger as protection in the lineup.
“He has been just an absolutely incredible baseball player… Seeing what he can do to a baseball and pulverize it… he’s such a dynamic hitter,” Alonso said. “He’s a great baseball player. That’s a hell of a bat to have in the lineup. Advantage us.”
And advantage to Mets Nation, who Alonso knows is the reason why he is playing the game, especially now with a pandemic going on.
“People need something to lean on to help cope,” he said. “So I’m really, really excited to be able to get back and be able to put a smile on some fans’ faces and play the game we love.”
Are you not entertained?