By Rich Coutinho
For Pete Alonso 2019 was a year he will always remember and the numbers on the back of his baseball card-53 homers and 120 RBI–illustrate that for all of us to see.
As impressive as those numbers are for a rookie it only tells part of the story. Being around him every day, I can tell you he understood the New York sports scene better than most veterans. He relished his connection with the Met fans and made himself available to the media on a daily basis because he knew that was a direct line to the fans.
As a teammate he made sure he connected with Met players in every corner of the clubhouse and they all came to respect him as a player and a person in short order, In many ways, it reminded me of the way David Wright introduced himself to New York 2 decades ago.
When Alonso arrived on the scene last year, he realized his critics would magnify every defensive mistake no matter how many home runs that he hit. So he worked on that portion of his game from the moment he hit spring training. And he developed into a better than average fielder scooping numerous errant throws at first base and playing the important role of the cut off man like he was a veteran of the position.
And as Alonso put an assault on the rookie home run record that was owned by the Yankees Aaron Judge he knew that journey would bring him closer to Met fans who enjoyed every moment of it as Pete included them in every second of it. We will soon enter a baseball season with no fans in the stands and the natural question is how will that affect him?
” I know every Met fan that can not be here will be watching on TV and I will draw my energy from that”, says Alonso. And trust me when I tell you this–his teammates will pick up on that concept because that is what leaders do-they inspire others.
The Mets, like all teams in baseball, will be entering new territory in a truncated 60 game season putting them in an unfamiliar setting. And baseball players love their routines because it helps them perform at their highest level. Pete will keep those routines in force in a number of ways from riding his teammates even from a social distance to using pre-game time to prepare to attack their opponents in the best way possible.
He also understands that this country needs a return to normalcy suffering from both a pandemic and a social crisis that is dividing us. He has spent time with Dominic Smith trying to understand the racial crisis in this country and knows that the only way to help correct these issues is by listening to each other. Again, this is what leaders do–they try to set the tone so others from afar could be inspired by the way they respond to issues like that.
Think about this for a moment-a year ago at this time Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith were battling for playing time and the 2 became close friends that supported each other in every way. That does not happen in every baseball clubhouse as petty jealousy could always get in the way.
I remember asking Michael Conforto about that last season and he told me it reminded him of the relationship he forged with Michael Cuddyer in 2015 when they were battling for playing time. That is leadership in a nutshell and in this abbreviated season it could be a mandatory approach every team must employ to breed success.
And in Pete Alonso the Mets possess a strength that goes far beyond his obvious home run hitting strength. As I said before in many ways, it is so David Wright-like