Pete Alonso was positioned in the National spotlight this week and could not have performed any better. Already making a name for himself with 30 home runs in the first half (remember how big of a deal it was when Ike Davis hit over 30 in a season?), Alonso was on full display in ESPN’s broadcast of the Home Run Derby. It was really fun to see him treated as a special as some of the greats of our game. He got the first interview with the commentators and was featured in a number of interesting graphics showing his accomplishments to date. ESPN even made the comparison to a rookie Mark McGwire which struck me.
In the actual competition itself Alonso also obviously impressed. While maybe not impressing as much as the runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alonso put on a show in his own right. I can remember as a kid staying up late watching David Wright faceoff with Ryan Howard back in the 2006 Derby, only to come up short. Surely many other fans felt the same and have had a long hunger for seeing a Met hold up the trophy.
Alonso’s success carried over to the next day going one for two with a two-out two-RBI knock to give the National League a chance in the eighth inning. He also added a steal and some nice defensive work, including one play while mic’d up where he surprised even himself in staying on the bag for the putout.
Jeff McNeil flew out in his one at bat, but he did not mess up in the field and carried a good presence on camera. Jacob deGrom was back to his usual All-Star Game beast by throwing a perfect inning in seven pitches, only one strike out this time though.
Going back to the star of the show of stars, Alonso has a lot to look forward to after this performance. He has risen to a prominence in the national spotlight we have not seen before in a Mets Rookie perhaps since Dwight Gooden. Michael Conforto had a great first season and hit three clutch post season home runs, and DeGrom won Rookie of the Year honors back in 2014, but Alonso right now is on a whole other level.
In the NL MVP conversation, Alonso with his power has quickly become more than just a really good player, but a star. He is now the type of player even non-baseball fans hear about. He is the type of player that gets all the interviews and cool graphics on a national broadcast. While his career will certainly have its ups and downs, this sort of public knowledge of a player is hard to take away, and he gives this New York Mets team a needed face. As disjointed the Mets are right now, they have to feel good about their new star, and they have to like the idea of having him at first base for years to come.