The Royals’ infielder is energetic and not afraid to show it. And that’s why he fits right in.
“Being around those guys is unbelievable,” Alberto said this weekend. “And it’s easy for me to go out there and have fun and be part of the team.”
Alberto, 28, was non-tendered by the Orioles this past offseason despite being a fan favorite and posting a .698 OPS in 54 games in 2020, following a .305/.329/.422 slash line in 139 games in ’19. His versatility figured to land him a Major League deal somewhere, but the slow offseason led many teams to reach out with Minor League deals. He found a fit with the Royals and signed in January, and he showed almost immediately how he could help Kansas City’s team in Spring Training as a utility man.
The “sneaky good” signing that Royals manager Mike Matheny described Alberto as isn’t much of a secret anymore. Stepping in for Hunter Dozier (right thumb contusion) at third base for the past three games, Alberto is 4-for-9 with three doubles and two RBIs to start the season.
“He brings a lot of energy,” center fielder Michael A. Taylor said. “He’s up there with [Jarrod Dyson] as far as chirping in the dugout. Obviously, he’s a really good player. Every day, he gives you good at-bats.”
Lauded for his defensive versatility and professional at-bats, Alberto doesn’t care where he plays, when he plays or how many at-bats he gets in a game. He prides himself on helping the team in any way he can -- especially if it means celebrating with teammates and keeping a light atmosphere in the dugout.
“When I signed with them, the first thing I asked was, ‘Hey, can you be noisy in the dugout, can I be myself?’” Alberto said. “And they said, ‘Yeah, be yourself.’ And now I’m enjoying it. To me, keeping the dugout happy, it means a lot. I feel pretty good when one of my teammates does a good thing like hit a home run, make good plays. I enjoy the moment with them.”
The Royals were more than happy to let Alberto be himself. Their goal is to create a championship team, and that requires a unique mix of talent and personalities, both on the field and off. Matheny calls Alberto a “glue guy” -- a key player in the clubhouse who keeps the team headed in the right direction, no matter how much playing time he gets.
“When you have the right kind of people with the right kind of credibility and resume on the bench, it’s amazing how that can help the rest of the group,” Matheny said. “Hanser has really been a great addition to this team, and in a number of ways. They deeply respect him because of how he treats people, but also some things he’s been able to do in the game.”
Alberto doesn’t let the energy subside when he does play. He can play all over the diamond and was needed right away on Opening Day when Dozier left with his thumb injury. On Saturday, Alberto started at third, lined two doubles and a single for an RBI and two runs scored. On the first double, he tore out of the batter’s box, slid headfirst into second base and popped up immediately, striking a surfer’s pose and pointing with both hands at the Royals dugout.
“My dad gave me that -- that high-level energy,” Albert said. “He’s always laughing, always happy, no matter how the situation. I just bring that here. … I got big support from the guys in the front office here, the coaches, the love that they’ve been showing me has made me feel like a big part of this organization.”
From what he’s already shown early in the season, Alberto has been a pivotal piece for a club looking to get back into contention in 2021.
“This is a really good signing for our club,” Matheny said. “Really impressive we were able to get him to be a part of what we’re doing. He fits in extremely well.
“He’s a difference-maker.”