The end of Peter Alonso's 2018 Minor League season has been defined by locations: Las Vegas, where he closed out the year and gave local fans a moment to remember; New York, where he arrived in September but not in the way many expected; and now Arizona, where the slugger's next chapter begins.
"It's been cool," one of the newest Scottsdale Scorpions said ahead of the start of the Arizona Fall League season this week. "It's a super laidback environment on the field. I've met everyone on the team and everyone seems really awesome. It's super-relaxed, and everyone's excited to get everyone going because I guess this is like a six-week long All-Star break. It's supposed to be fun. I'm going to enjoy it."
The second-ranked Mets prospect is part of New York's eight-player contingent in Scottsdale for the autumn showcase circuit, and his next month and a half likely will feel calmer than his last. In the midst of a sterling offensive season, Alonso surged into the race for the Bauman Home Run Award as the Minors' homer king with a blistering August in which he blasted 11 jacks. And the 2016 second-round pick saved his best moment for, quite literally, last.
With the 51s down a run in their final game at Cashman Field before moving into brand new Las Vegas Ballpark next year, Alonso came to the plate in the ninth inning with the potential tying run at third. On the first pitch from Sacramento reliever and No. 7 Giants prospect Tyler Beede, Alonso clobbered a walk-off shot to lift himself into a tie with Daytona's Ibandel Isabel for the Minors' top home run mark.
"The last pitch thrown in Cashman Field was a walk-off home run," MLB.com's No. 58 overall prospect said. "That's how you put a stadium to bed, I guess, right? That's what they told me. It was a special moment for all the Vegas fans there because we had so many people there at the final game who grew up going to the Vegas games at Cashman. It was for the fans that have always watched Minor League baseball. It was a bittersweet ending."
The swing finished off a torrid season during which Alonso batted .285/.395/.579 with 36 homers and 119 RBIs in 132 games between Double-A Binghamton and Las Vegas and put himself in the conversation for a September callup.
"I'm super-proud of what I did," he said. "In my opinion, I had one of the best seasons in Minor League baseball, and it's a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication that I put in. All the success I've had, I just attribute it to work and also the people who have helped me. Not just my family but my coaches too -- it comes back to the old cliché, it takes a village. A lot of people have been throughout my life and every year I have a good year, it's a combination of hard work and people who work with me and put the time in with me and believe in me."
That callup wasn't to be. Two weeks before his walk-off blast ended the Minor League season, while on a road trip through Fresno and El Paso, Alonso was informed by the Mets that he wouldn't be joining the big league club in September. Instead, he'd head to New York for an end-of-season skills camp at Citi Field with other top prospects.
"For the rest of that road trip, I kind of let it affect me a little bit, but also during that road trip, I hit my 30th home run," he said. "It was a very mixed feeling about it. It's cool that I get to go up there, get my feet wet, take BP in the stadium, continue to work. That's all good things, but every player wants to be in the big leagues. It was frustrating to hear the news, especially after having a really good year, and that's OK. I just need to keep proving that I'm a hell of a player. I want to continue that in the Fall League. I want to keep continuing to prove to myself that I can do it, that I can be a big leaguer one day."
The decision to keep the first baseman off the big league roster fired up Mets fans and prompted a dustup between the New York media and Alonso's camp. After his agents, Adam Karon and Tripper Johnson, released a statement calling the move "disheartening," WFAN host Chris Carlin declared them "REMARKABLY DUMB" on Twitter. Alonso defended his representatives in response.
Though the situation died down, it was a learning experience for Alonso.
"It's a super-valuable lesson," the University of Florida product said. "I shouldn't have responded, but I did because I thought it was the right thing to do. I still think it's the right thing to do, but it is what it is. I'm always going to be Pete. I'm always going to be who I am, but in retrospect, it probably didn't have the best look. It got people riled up, but that wasn't the intention. I was just making a statement.
"I think it was just one of those things that was taken out of context, and I need to do a better job and tread more lightly when it comes to that kind of stuff and choose my words better."
While Alonso's New York sojourn was for camp and not his big league debut, it was likewise an appreciated moment. At Citi Field, Alonso accepted his award as the Mets' Organizational Player of the Year and participated in batting practice, fielding drills, meetings and other activities in a big league atmosphere.
All the while, he knew what his fall would entail. The Mets told Alonso after his appearance in the Futures Game in July that they intended to send him to the Fall League, and the first baseman has a clear plan of what he wants to accomplish there.
"When I first went up to Triple-A, I had a really big dose of right-on-right changeups and cutters that looked like strikes but were right below the bottom of the zone," he said. "I was swinging at pitches I couldn't handle. Either I would beat it into the dirt or pop up or just miss it. Getting a better command of the strike zone, really capitalizing on pitches I can drive, every hitter needs to work on their strike-zone discipline. Every single one of us swings at sliders in the dirt sometimes. Every single one of us swings at a changeup or a high fastball at our letters. It happens. For me, I can always get better at capitalizing on hittable pitches.
"Better baserunning, doing first-to-thirds, good ball reads, you don't have to steal a ton of bases to be a good baserunner. You can take that extra base just getting better jumps. And then just keep progressing defensively. This is a good six, seven weeks or so to just try to elevate my game, play as crisp and clean as possible."
Alonso may not have been announced to a Citi Field crowd as a member of a Mets lineup, but that day isn't far off.
"I think Mets fans are absolutely awesome," the 23-year-old said. "They're insane, super-passionate, and as a player, you want to play in front of people who are super-passionate about the team. They're awesome because they care. They live, breathe Mets. I think they're some of the best fans in the world and I can't wait to play for them."