NEW YORK — As he stood there at first base, moments after achieving a feat that no other player in the history of Major League Baseball has accomplished, Pete Alonso started to tear up.
He entered spring training having to fight for a roster spot before mashing his way onto the roster. In July, Alonso again mashed, this time winning the Home Run Derby.
And, here in September, Alonso did what he did best again, mashing another long ball, this one, his 53rd of the year, giving “Polar Bear” more homers than any other rookie in the history of Major League Baseball.
Alonso’s solo smash off Atlanta Braves righty Mike Foltynewicz in the third inning of the New York Mets’ 3-0 win broke a tie with New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge that had been set in 2017.
“To be part of major league history, and be No. 1 among all the guys that have played the game, it’s humbling and it’s a ridiculously awesome feeling,” Alonso said. “That moment was pure magic.”
Earning his way into the record books
It’s fitting that this Mets season, which could be labeled the “Year of the Polar Bear,” would start and end with Alonso showcasing what makes him such a unique and gravitating star. There simply aren’t many built like Alonso, an affable youngster who let the world know that he’s going to be in the mix for the home run champion each and every single year.
Coming into camp, Alonso didn’t know if he would make the team since the Mets could possibly hold him in the minors to gain an extra year of control. Alonso then homered on the first pitch he saw, and continued to punish baseballs all spring to earn his way onto the team.
Alonso later hit his first major league homer on April 1, a rocket to centerfield at spacious Marlins Park, and that blast opened the floodgates. He finished the first half with 30 bombs.
“Yesterday I felt I was getting raw eggs put on my head, mustard, flower, soap, mouthwash, whatever, whatever anybody could find,” Alonso said of the celebration after his first homer. “Fifty-two later, this is crazy. That seems like forever ago.”
The records kept falling in the second half with Alonso first setting the new NL rookie record with his 40th homer, breaking the record previously held by Los Angeles Dodgers phenom, Cody Bellinger.
Three homers later, Alonso set the Mets’ single-season record, passing future Hall-of-Famer Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley.
With that mark cleared, it turned all the focus on whether Alonso could match Judge.
Alonso hit three homers in three straight games at Coors Field last week to get to 50, and entered the Mets’ final home stand needing three more to break the record. He hit his 51st Wednesday night against the Marlins, and tied Judge on Friday with his 52nd blast, a solo shot to left off former AL Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel.
Citi Field buzzed Saturday when Alonso came to the plate with fans standing as they had their cellphone out. Alonso struck out in his first at-bat, but in the second, he made history.
Alonso crushed a 2-1 sinker from Foltynewicz, and walked with the bat for a few seconds before nonchalantly tossing it to the side. He then raised his arms, and jobbed around the bases as the theme for “The Natural” blared.
His teammates lined up outside the dugout to greet him, and Alonso later came out for a curtain call after the hit, extending his hands while the crowd roared.
“The fans came here to see something historic and they got what they wanted to see. It’s like he never lets you down. Man, he’s a fantastic guy,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “You can see it in his face how genuine he is and every emotion he has.”
When Alonso took the field moments later, cameras showcased his tears.
“Holy s---, I can’t believe that happened,” Alonso said of his thoughts while he stood at first base. “I’ve never felt anything like that. It was pure euphoria and magic.”
Dinner on Judge
With Alonso now breaking Judge’s record, it sets up what should be a fun battle between the two in the years to come.
Alonso and Judge will surely hit dozens upon dozens of homers in the race to have the most in baseball, providing breathtaking moonshots into the upper decks in stadiums across the country.
Judge wished Alonso nothing but the best Friday night after Alonso tied him, and even offered to take him to dinner.
Alonso, not surprisingly, is willing to take him up on that offer.
“He’s paying for it? Oh dang,” Alonso said with a laugh. “I’ll talk to him, but if he’s picking the place, it’s probably McDonald’s because I eat a lot. If I get to pick the spot and it’s on him, I’m picking Peter Luger’s or something.”
When they dine, Alonso will have the bragging rights as the greatest rookie home run hitter of all time.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t know if he’d be on the opening day roster.
“I’m just so happy with this year. I couldn’t have asked for a better year,” Alonso said. “This is a dream come true.”
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