5 reasons to root for Alonso in Derby

July 5th, 2019

Remember when people were wondering whether would even be on the Mets' Opening Day roster? How ancient is that history?

Look at him now. Alonso is a rookie sensation, crushing baseballs like few other sluggers in the league. Polar Bear Pete is already beloved in Flushing, and the No. 2 seed in the Home Run Derby is about to treat baseball fans everywhere to a light-tower power display on Monday.

Alonso has been practicing at Citi Field, and he'll be ready for his first opponent in Cleveland, hometown fan favorite Carlos Santana.

Here are five reasons to root for Alonso in the Home Run Derby.

1) Polar Bear Power

Do you like rocket home runs? Or just massive bombs? Alonso hits them all.

His 118.3 mph home run on April 11 is tied for the hardest homer in MLB this season, and it's the hardest by any Mets player since Statcast started tracking in 2015. It's tied for the 10th-hardest home run hit by anyone since 2015 -- and the only sluggers to top Alonso are Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Polar Bear Pete has hit 11 home runs 110 mph or harder, second-most in MLB behind Gary Sanchez and already a Mets record for a full season of Statcast tracking.

Want distance? Alonso's got that too. Twenty of his homers have traveled at least 400 feet, tied with fellow Derby contestant Josh Bell for the most of any hitter. He's hit six at least 440 feet -- second-most behind Bell -- and three 450-plus, making him one of eight hitters with that many 450-footers. Alonso's 458-foot home run on June 15 is the Mets' longest of the year; he has each of the Mets' top four and seven of their top 10.

2) This guy sets records

For 35 years, Darryl Strawberry held the Mets' rookie home run record. He hit 26 as a 21-year-old in 1983, en route to Rookie of the Year honors. Alonso shattered Strawberry's mark when he hit No. 27 … on June 23. It took Alonso all of 77 games to break the full-season mark set by one of the best home run hitters in franchise history.

Alonso has also set the National League rookie record for most first-half home runs. He broke Cody Bellinger's mark of 25 set in his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign. The most home runs by a rookie before the All-Star break in either league is 33 by Mark McGwire for the A's in 1987.

3) Look out, Judge and Belli

Alonso's 28 home runs don't just have him jockeying for position in the MLB home run race with Christian Yelich and Bellinger, they put him on a historic pace. His fellow New York City bomber Judge holds the all-time rookie home run record with the 52 he crushed in 2017; Bellinger set the NL rookie mark that same year, finishing with 39.

Alonso right now? On pace for just about 52. He's got a shot at Judge. And at the rate he's going, he could blow past Bellinger. Both of those hitters were unanimous Rookies of the Year in 2017. Judge and Bellinger both participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby, too -- and slugged it out in Round 2, with Judge winning the head-to-head matchup and then the whole Derby. Judge was the first rookie to win a Home Run Derby outright; Alonso could become No. 2.

4) No one likes to share

No Met has ever won a Home Run Derby outright. They've had one co-champion, Strawberry, all the way back in the Mets' World Series champion 1986 season. That was just the second Home Run Derby ever held, and to this day it's still the only Derby with multiple champions. If Alonso wins, he stands alone.

Strawberry shared the honors with the Angels' Wally Joyner at the Astrodome that year. He crushed a pair of majestic shots in the Derby -- one clear over the right-center-field bleachers and onto the stadium concourse, and one jaw-dropping blast off a speaker hanging from the dome's roof … 350 feet from home plate and 140 feet above the field.

5) It's for a good cause

If Alonso wins, he's pledged to donate 5% of the $1 million grand prize to the Wounded Warrior Project, which supports wounded veterans, and another 5% to Tunnel for Towers, a Staten Island-based nonprofit that aids first responders and their families.

Alonso comes from a family with a military background. So does his Home Run Derby pitcher -- his cousin, Derek Morgan.

"Both of us, I think we have a really, really important stress on the people who take care of human life and are selfless in that regard," Alonso said. "They put themselves in the line of duty, whether that be overseas or here, trying to protect us civilians in New York and around our country. I have the utmost respect for those people who are in the line of duty every day, that risk their lives to protect others."