Ready and Waiting

As of May 1, 2020, the “Polar Bear” Pete Alonso is on pace to hit 57 home runs this season.

After showing baseball fans his strength by winning the 2019 Home Run Derby during All-Star festivities and then leading the majors by hitting a new record 53 home runs in his rookie campaign (gaining him the Rookie of the Year Award, of course), the 25-year-old New York Mets slugger is proving to be a force to be reckoned with, far from the “flash in the pan” of many previous winner of that award (the Royals’ Angel Berroa comes to mind, bless his heart). Pushing the Mets to a 17-14 record — after a frustrating 0-3 start to the season, the Amazins’ just rallied off six consecutive wins — the pundits’ predictions of progression for the young Mets roster may prove positive.

Often quoted sharing his joy for — and devotion to — being a member of the Mets, Alonso is an avid fan’s delight: articulate, enthusiastic, young, strong, ever-improving, unafraid of the challenges ahead, and clearly putting his money where his mouth is. With 11 home runs in April — after a mere 34 games played — Alonso is poised to hit his stride as the season progresses. Going into another series against the Atlanta Braves — against whom the Mets just swept a three-game series in Atlanta — and with other young and progressing teammates such as shortstop Amed Rosario and third baseman Jeff McNeil similarly performing, the Mets’ home turf at Citi Field expects to be filled with fans in the coming days.

In last season’s campaign, the Mets showed grit, pushing their rivals in competing for an entry into the postseason. The offense was mostly carried by Alonso and his 53 dingers. Personally, I had the pleasure of witnessing a few of Alonso’s blasts first hand, including his rookie record 53rd:

If you squint, you can sorta, kinda see me in center field in that video, just above the bleacher seats, arms raised and mouth open, celebrating Pete. (Yeah, we’re now on a first-name basis. He just doesn’t know mine … yet.)

I was with my 10-year-old son at the game, as we had seats along the first base line, offering a terrific view of each at-bat (here’s proof!):

Of course, as is often the case with a 10-year-old at a ballgame, snacks eventually became the focus. So we wandered around the ballpark, seeking both sustenance and ambiance, simultaneously. We eventually situated ourselves in center, standing atop the bleachers section, ready and waiting.

The strength of last season’s performance — bolstered by our eye-witnessing of Pete’s history-making 53rd — put my son and me at the faucet of this year’s season, ready to catch every drip and absorb every drop of action the Mets flowed forward. Even our imagination took hold of us, as our January and February backyard ballgames had us pretending to be Mets: Me pitching to my son, him swinging for the fences, ghostly and immortal words of imaginary broadcasters filling the air between us, “Polar Bear Pete hits another!”

The funny thing is, I’ve been an avid and hard-core New York Yankees fan for a long, long time — I was at Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox on that hot July 4 day when Wade Boggs struck out to end the game. Coincidently, I was also in The Stadium for David Wells’ big day, sitting in the front row of the Upper Deck, watching the Minnesota Twins go down, one through 27. For David Cone’s perfecto? I had tickets to that one, too! I love the Yanks and will always call them mine.

But it’s the excitement, the anticipation of potential success from the young, sturdy, and strong Mets that have captured my excitement this go-round. The impossible and improbable of the Mets, climbing and stretching to reach the proverbial mountaintop, clawing and gripping in attempts to do what the Yanks have done oh so many times. For Mets fans, watching Alonso hit bombs, leading his team to the kind of successes only the Yankees have seen and can fully and truly understand, would be a dream.

Speaking of dreams:

Those 11 home runs after 34 games? Those projected 57 on the season? Those are simulated stats.

How very disappointing, disheartening, even disgusting. Here I was, prepared to cheer the cross-town rival, the underdog, the perennial “also-ran.” I was so excited, so wanting, so on-edge for the excitement, the on-field battles, and the possibilities of Alonso. Alas, once again I’m standing atop the bleachers section, ready and waiting.

Yeah, I miss baseball.

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