Alonso sets rookie HR record with No. 53

Slugger overcome with emotion as family, friends witness history

September 29th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Long after the baseball landed and the ballgame ended and the fans who had serenaded him cleared out of Citi Field, stood, still in uniform, on a patch of grass near the Mets’ dugout. Alonso’s eyes were red, whether from fresh tears or old ones he could not have said. His mother, Michelle, reached up to hold his face in her hands.

“I’m good,” Alonso told her. “I’m good.”

“I’m so proud of you,” his mother replied.

Hours earlier, Alonso hit the 53rd home run of his storied summer to stand alone in baseball history. In the Mets’ 3-0 win over the Braves on Saturday, Alonso snapped a tie with Yankees slugger to become the first Major League rookie to hit 53. There to watch were his parents, Michelle and Peter; his fiancée, Haley Walsh; his high school coach; a childhood friend and several others. They took turns embracing him and posing for pictures. They marveled over the arc of his season, from Spring Training hopeful to Opening Day first baseman to All-Star to Home Run Derby champion to record-holder.

The party began at 8:13 p.m. ET, when Braves starter threw Alonso a two-seam fastball that he crushed, as he has so many times this season, just to the right of straightaway center field. Alonso knew off the bat that the record, which he had been chasing throughout September, was his. From the seating bowl behind the Mets’ dugout, Alonso’s parents watched him take a few slow steps toward first base, then thrust his hands into the air in celebration. His father flashed back to the journey that brought him here.

Six months ago, Alonso was not even certain he would make the Mets’ Opening Day roster, as impossible as that sort of thing may seem now. When Alonso learned on the eve of the season that he had made the team, he called his parents, who were flying to Washington in hopes of good news. Alonso’s mother began bawling on the plane. His father tried to tell other passengers that those were happy tears, not sad tears, while filming her reaction.

More tears would come as Alonso, over the ensuing six months, began forming a collection of souvenir baseballs and other mementos -- his first hit, his first home run, his Home Run Derby trophy, his Mets franchise record-breaking 42nd homer, his Major League rookie record 53rd.

“It’s like he never lets you down,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.

Callaway was referring to the announced crowd of 32,210, many of whom trekked to Citi Field primarily to see if Alonso could make history again. When he did, his teammates poured out of the dugout, meeting him on the field for hugs and laughs and backslaps. The inning ended shortly thereafter, but the overwhelming nature of the moment remained. When Alonso returned to the field for the top of the fourth, tears were in his eyes, prompting Braves manager Brian Snitker to remark: “I look at that guy right there, and I see ‘real.’”

“I think what you see is what you get out of that kid,” Snitker said. “There is no pretense.”

Credit Michelle and Peter for that. For their son, there is one more game to play, a few more chances to extend his record. Callaway is considering double-switching Alonso out of Sunday’s finale so that Mets fans can serenade him with one last ovation. He still has his eyes on a four-RBI game, which would give him a franchise record-tying 124. Even if Alonso doesn’t hit that mark, he can count on winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award next month.

That figures to be emotional, too -- though perhaps not quite like this. When Alonso hit his record-breaking homer, his mother began sobbing even more fully than she did on that plane ride to Washington six months earlier. Deep tears. Real tears. Tears that mirrored those of her son.

“To me, it just means so much,” Alonso said. “I didn’t know I was going to be overcome with all that emotion. At that point, I might as well just let it out.”