Classic atmosphere has Alonso eyeing '23 postseason

March 23rd, 2023

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Over his four-year career, has played in three postseason games. Total. All three took place this past October, when Alonso’s Mets lost a best-of-three National League Wild Card Series to the Padres.

“The result wasn’t there,” Alonso said, “but I wanted more.”

He did not have to wait long. A few weeks after returning to Mets camp in February, Alonso traveled west to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, remaining with the club through its 3-2 loss to Team Japan in Tuesday's championship game. And while Alonso did not appear in every game, amassing only 15 plate appearances in the tournament, he believes the experience prepared him for what he hopes is a quick return to the postseason.

“It’s an addicting feeling,” Alonso said. “To play playoff-type baseball early this year I think is going to be an extremely important experience and learning thing for me. … To be able to jump right in during spring and to be able to experience that and to be able to participate, it’s really special. I think that performing and then having those at-bats and experience, it’s going to be extremely valuable for October.”

For the first time this spring, Alonso can speak about the playoffs with a different sense of expectation, given his experience -- however limited -- in that arena. A homegrown core of Mets position players -- including Alonso, and -- now know what it’s like to play in the postseason. More than that, they understand what’s required to get there.

For Alonso, the preparation for a return began in the offseason, continued into the early days of Spring Training and hit hyperdrive in Arizona, where the United States played its Pool C games. Due to the presence of reigning National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt on Team USA's roster, Alonso started only three of a possible 11 games -- all three at designated hitter. He finished 2-for-14 with one run and one RBI.

Even so, playing in front of sellout crowds made an impression on Alonso, whose other most memorable big league moments have occurred largely in the Home Run Derby -- important to Alonso and to many fans, but valueless within the context of a World Series goal. Alonso wants to change that. Last year offered him a prime opportunity. It has since morphed into unfinished business that the Classic helped him tackle.

“I think that’s trial-by-fire,” Alonso said. “I really do. Those high-leverage reps earlier in the year, they gave me a pretty good reminder of what I need to do in order, not just to be physically ready for the season, but how to control emotions in a super tense situation -- whether it be a big series in the year or in the playoffs. That’s what it’s all for. I want to be able to draw from those big-game experiences, and then apply them.”

In the short term, Alonso will focus on increasing his reps over the final week of Spring Training. Upon meeting the Mets on the Gulf Coast of Florida late Thursday morning, he hustled to the batting cage, took a few rounds of batting practice on the field, then immediately jumped back into Grapefruit League action. He will appear in the bulk of the team’s remaining games in hopes of making up for lost at-bats during the World Baseball Classic.

For Alonso, it’s a small sacrifice for the experience he gained at an international showcase tournament, with all the drama and noise and excitement that came along with it. Asked if he would like to play in the next edition of the Classic in 2026, Alonso did not hesitate.

“One-hundred percent,” he said. “Absolutely.”