Alonso's 52nd HR ties MLB rookie record

Mets slugger matches mark set by Judge in '17 in win over Braves

September 28th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Because is a walking, talking, home run-bashing superlative, it seems only natural that his vocabulary should mirror his production. When asked earlier this week about the possibility of hitting as many home runs as any rookie in Major League history, Alonso described the idea as “super, incredibly, amazingly awesome.”

For Alonso, everything seems to be “amazing” and “fun” and “special” and “a dream come true.” And why shouldn’t it be? During a seven-minute interview last week, Alonso used the words “awesome” and “miraculous” eight times. Teammate described him as “a big kid” with “true joy every time he comes in the clubhouse to play baseball.” Manager Mickey Callaway gushed: “There’s just something about Pete that draws everybody in.”

Part of it is recognition of the sublime. Alonso, who spent his summer ripping Major League Baseball’s record book into pieces with his bare hands, reached one more significant milestone Friday in the Mets’ 4-2 win over the Braves. Batting against in the first inning, Alonso lined his 52nd homer just over the orange line painted onto Citi Field’s left-field wall. In so doing, he matched for the most by a rookie in Major League history.

"There is no better person to share it with," Judge said after the Yankees' game in Texas. "He’s eventually going to break it. I know that for sure."

As Alonso rounded first base with a share of the record, a wide grin spread across his face. Alonso thrust both hands into the air and clapped them together. He pointed to the fans who cheered and chanted his name -- a group that included his parents in attendance. Then he emerged from the dugout once more for a curtain call.

“I felt like a 7-year-old kid,” Alonso said. “I was really just overcome with pure joy and emotion. I can’t think of a happier time in my life playing baseball. That is the ultimate. That is what dreams, for me, are made of.”

So badly did the Mets want Alonso to break Judge’s record that they considered -- and are still considering, with two games remaining -- batting him leadoff to maximize his plate appearances. Friday, Alonso hit second, where he has batted most often this season. Stepping to the plate for his first crack against Keuchel, he took a strike before crushing a belt-high cutter to left. The home run was not one of his signature, majestic blasts, but instead a roped line drive that left his bat at 96.8 mph.

“Alonso’s wasn’t the greatest pitch, but it’s not one I’d like to have back,” Keuchel said. “He just muscled it out of the park. You’ve got strong dudes in this league.”

Consider Alonso, at age 24, one of the strongest. His 52 homers are three more than anyone in MLB, giving him a chance to become the first rookie in baseball’s modern era (since 1900) to lead the Majors outright. Two others, Brooklyn’s Tim Jordan in 1906 and Oakland’s in 1987, tied for the home run title. The solo shot also gave Alonso his 119th RBI, moving him within five of the Mets’ franchise record that and share.

If anyone is aware of those numbers, it’s Alonso, a history major at the University of Florida and a baseball buff since childhood. Alonso grew up idolizing Piazza, McGwire and , three burly, right-handed sluggers whose physiques and skill sets matched his own. The former two players were Rookie of the Year Award winners, which also appears to be Alonso’s destiny. Yet Alonso has already accomplished things that even his idols never did.

“To try and wrap my mind around that -- when I think of guys in baseball history, I think of old-timey guys like , , ,” Alonso said. “To think as a rookie I hit more homers than everyone except for one guy, it’s nuts. It’s crazy.”

That “one guy,” Judge, was in Alonso’s place two years ago, bashing 52 home runs across town for the Yankees. Alonso has not met him outside of brief conversations on the field during the Subway Series, though he intends to contact Judge this offseason in hopes of planning a dinner. Told of those intentions late Friday, Judge said it "would be cool" to share a meal with him and offered to pay -- so long as Alonso picks up the tab on the next one.

Imagine that scene. As Alonso put it recently, a total of 19,689 players have appeared in Major League Baseball games. Only two have hit 52 home runs as rookies. They play in the same city at the same time. They captivate the same generation of fans. They may soon share a wine list and a meal, talking about how “awesome” and “fun” and “special” and “amazing” and “miraculous” this life is.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” was how Alonso described his experience.

“I’m really happy about everything,” was another way he put it.

“I think,” Alonso added, “I’m the luckiest guy on earth.”