Win, draw, or lose, New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is going to become more popular nationally in the 2019 Home Run Derby.
Away from the New York Mets fan base, I’m not so sure anyone really notices what Pete Alonso is doing in 2019. The powerful first baseman has already set the franchise record for most home runs by a player in his rookie season. It took him less than three months to accomplish this feat.
In Monday’s Home Run Derby, Alonso has a chance to become a national star. For all of its weak moments and reasons to skip, the Home Run Derby is still an event casual fans watch whether or not they actually enjoy it.
Years ago, we saw Josh Hamilton become a household name to baseball families everywhere. His story of overcoming addiction surely helped make his Home Run Derby spectacle even more noteworthy. Although Justin Morneau eventually won the tournament, Hamilton was the star of the night with a record-setting 28 home runs in one round.
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It won’t take 28 home runs or any other records for Alonso to have a derby like Hamilton. A couple of light tower bombs high and far into the Cleveland night should do it.
Amazingly, since 2011, all but two of the Home Run Derby winners are men who currently play for a New York baseball team. Current Mets Robinson Cano (2011), Yoenis Cespedes (2013 and 2014), and Todd Frazier (2015) all claimed victory this decade. New York Yankees teammates Giancarlo Stanton (2016) and Aaron Judge (2017) are the other two. The outliers, Prince Fielder (2012) and Bryce Harper (2018), are the streak busters in this somewhat coincidental occurrence.
Alonso’s trip to the Home Run Derby is a chance to show to everyone just how powerful he is. There’s no chip on his shoulder or attention-seeking antics he puts on display.
Alonso doesn’t come across as the kind of hot dog player who participates in events like this to do anything more than compete and win. The Home Run Derby will be his first big prime time event where baseball eyes are on only one place.
In a year overshadowed by bullpen woes, fewer wins than losses, and off-field incidents which have embarrassed the Mets, Alonso has been one of the bright spots along the way. On this night, he has a chance to become recognized across the country as a baseball star.
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Our secret is out of the bag tonight. We have a slugger who can crush baseballs with the best of them. Baseball fans who tune in irregularly are about to find out there’s a Polar Bear in Queens always ready to mash.