By Lenn Robbins
In this latest trainwreck of a Mets season, the light at the end of the tunnel is not on the front of the train.
Pete Alonso just might turn out to be the greatest slugger in franchise history. Best of all, he seems like a kid in a candy store, not an entitled athlete that’s been showered with praise since T-Ball.
After winning the Home Run Derby Monday night in Cleveland and earning a cool $1 million bonus – almost twice his base salary – Alonso said he would donate 10% of his winnings to two charities – the Wounded Warrior Project and Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
“I have the utmost respect for the people that put their lives on the line every single day — and I just wanna show my gratitude, because a bad day for me is a lot different than a bad day for the servicemen and women that serve this country,” Alonso told reporters.
Now if this isn’t a guy you want to root for, who is?
Need more proof that Alonso is worth the root? Unlike former Mets pitcher Matt Harvey, who dubbed himself the Dark Knight, Alonso’s nickname was bestowed upon him by teammate Todd Frazier in spring training.
Frazier took one look at the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Alonso and announced, ‘You look like a Polar Bear.’
“If any of you guys know Todd Frazier, he’s a loud mouth from Jersey,’’ Alonso told reporters. “He tells it how it is.
“But I love that guy. He’s a great teammate. But he’s quite the character. He’s a clown. But definitely got it from him.”
Alonso came into the Derby with the most impressive first half in Mets history. On a floundering Mets team (40-50) Alonso hit 30 home runs before the All Star break, tied with Mark McGwire (33) and Aaron Judge (30), for the second most in MLB history by a rookie.
He’s 11 home runs shy of the Mets team record for homers (41) set by Todd Hundley in 1996 and equaled by Carlos Beltran in 2006. And his 68 RBIs before the All Star break is National League record for a rookie.
Despite these accomplishments, Alfonso isn’t a household name outside the metropolitan area. That’s changing by the minute.
In winning the Home Run Derby by edging fellow-rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alonso became the favorite son of Ohio by calling the Buckeye State the greatest state ever. His parents were high school sweethearts in Lancaster. Ohio. Seems as if the Polar Bear is a bit of a romantic.
Alonso is the first Met to win The Derby since 1986 when Darryl Strawberry shared the honor with Wally Joyner. He’s got another 72 games to play and by the end of the season every Mets power-hitting record probably lay in ruins.
Monday night, he sounded like the kid in the candy store.
“That was a blast. Oh my god, that was a blast,” Alonso told reporters. “I’m gonna remember that for the rest of my life.”