MIAMI -- About three miles from the site of the Midsummer Classic, a 14-year-old Yonder Alonso would clean offices to help his mom and dad provide for the family. On Saturdays, he would sneak into the hallowed grounds of the Orange Bowl (where Marlins Park now sits) to catch Miami
MIAMI -- About three miles from the site of the Midsummer Classic, a 14-year-old Yonder Alonso would clean offices to help his mom and dad provide for the family. On Saturdays, he would sneak into the hallowed grounds of the Orange Bowl (where Marlins Park now sits) to catch Miami Hurricanes football games.
Alonso -- now the starting first baseman for the A's -- returned to the site on Monday afternoon on the American League's team bus for his first All-Star Game.
"I woke up this morning and I told my wife I didn't want to sleep for two days," Alonso said. "I don't know if that's possible, but I'm trying to remember every step possible that I take for these two days. It's surreal. I remember coming here for the first time, but I also remember coming here for the Orange Bowl days, the Miami days against Florida State and all those great teams. It's just incredible."
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Alonso, who defected from Cuba to Miami as a kid, attended nearby Coral Gables High School and the University of Miami before being selected in the first round by the Reds in 2008.
"I get chills about it," said Alonso, whose father, Luis, rode the team bus with him. "I'm full circle right now."
But the 30-year-old, who arrived in South Florida in the early morning, isn't staying at home. Alonso wants to experience the All-Star Game as if he were out of town. Still, that didn't stop him from leaving 50 tickets for Monday's T-Mobile Home Run Derby and another 60 for the MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
Alonso figured it was a way to repay the family, friends and coaches who helped him along the way. It would also give them the chance to experience the festivities.
"I think you guys all know the way my career has been," Alonso said. "There's been a lot of ups and downs, injuries. The one thing I've always had was support around this city. No matter what, my confidence level was always up because the people here always knew what person I was and how much I worked. It never brought me down, and now that I'm here, it's just come full circle. I feel like I'm just a kid playing a game and really enjoying every minute of it."
Alonso has already set a career high with 20 home runs (his previous mark was nine in 2012 with San Diego), while improving upon his career on-base percentage (.339) by 33 points (.372).
Nearly seven years after making his Major League debut and two organizations later, Alonso is third among AL first basemen in homers, second in OBP, third in slugging (.562) and second in OPS (.934).
Luis elbowed Yonder on the team bus, telling his son to look around. The household names were now his All-Star peers. The father who brought his family to the United States for an opportunity like this one finally saw it all pay off.
"This is a dream for me, the family and Yonder," Luis said. "It's the best moment. Twenty years in this country. ... It wasn't easy. Nothing easy. Three teams, surgery. I don't know. Nothing [came] easy for Yonder. Right now, it's a dream [with the] All-Star Game in Miami."
Christina De Nicola is an editorial producer for MLB.com based in Miami.