Derby hopeful Alonso would donate to charity

Rookie slugger would send portion of $1 million prize to Wounded Warrior Project

May 25th, 2019

NEW YORK -- New for this year’s Home Run Derby is a sizeable cash prize to the winner -- $1 million, or nearly twice 's rookie salary. While Alonso has his eye on that award, it’s not for selfish reasons.

Alonso hopes to participate in this year’s Derby in part because if he wins, he plans to donate a portion of the $1 million to the Wounded Warrior Project -- a charitable organization providing programs and services for wounded veterans and active-duty service members.

“Obviously, it’s a big purse for the winner,” Alonso said. “To be in that moment, to win, it would be awesome if I could just give back.”

While he’s still working out the details, Alonso’s idea is that if he wins the Derby, he’ll donate a set sum of cash for every home run he hits to the Wounded Warrior Project. The more he hits, the more he’ll donate.

The catch? Alonso hasn’t actually been picked for the event, which will pit eight sluggers against each other on July 8 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. He’s hoping that when Major League Baseball starts making its selections later this summer, his early power surge will make him a prime candidate to participate. He’s also hoping he can use that platform to do a bit of good in the world.

“That’s what I want to do,” Alonso said. “I feel really lucky and I feel like all of us are, because without brave men and women who have served this country, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. This sport probably wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have the freedom to do what we do. It’s a high price to pay. I just want to recognize all the good things those men and women do for this country.”

Alonso’s family includes plenty of military history. His paternal grandfather served for the United States Army during World War II, working for the Intelligence Division in Great Britain and France, while his maternal grandfather served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. As such, Alonso has always held deep admiration for military members. A recent Mets visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland underscored his passion.

“I respect the hell out of people who have not just served this country, but who currently serve this country,” Alonso said. “It’s something I feel really passionate about, and I want to do something to say thank you for those who have served.”

Alonso plans to figure out the exact logistics of his donation if he is picked to participate -- a possibility that, statistically, seems likely. Entering Saturday, Alonso’s 17 home runs were tied for third in the Majors with , behind only and . He’s also plenty capable of putting on a show. Of the 53 big leaguers with double-digit homers, Alonso’s blasts rank 12th in average distance.

He has previously participated in two home run derbies, both when he was in college. The first took place during the Northwoods League All-Star Game, a showcase for some of baseball’s top college players. The second was a promotional event pitting him and one other player against Jose Canseco.

Alonso's not upset that Canseco won that one.

“I’ve always loved watching the Derby,” Alonso said. “My parents always let me stay up late to watch it, so it’s something I’ve always gotten really excited for. It’s a really fun atmosphere. It’s a really special event, and to participate would be a dream come true.”

If Alonso can accomplish a good deed along the way, all the better. This year’s Home Run Derby comes with a total prize pool of $2.5 million, up from $525,000 last year. The $1 million grand prize is an eightfold increase over 2018.

That’s big bucks for Alonso, who is making $555,000 this season and, unless he signs an extension, probably won’t crack $1 million until he reaches arbitration in 2022. Still, he is more interested in using that money to support Wounded Warriors.

“I’m still kind of tinkering with it,” Alonso said. “It’s something I was just kind of brainstorming, and something I’m passionate about. It’s something I want to do, but I need the invitation before I plan anything.”