University of Florida

He’s the Mets’ minor-league MVP — and one of many former UF Gators close to MLB call-up

This is a 2018 photo of Peter Alonso of the New York Mets baseball team. This image reflects the Mets active roster as of Feb. 21, 2018 when this image was taken. Alonso finally put on a uniform at Citi Field on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Just not as part of New York’s active roster. Alonso was honored on the field as the Mets’ minor league player of the year about two weeks after New York frustrated its fans by declining to promote him to the major leagues. Alonso says he was “disappointed” to be kept off the major league roster, but he’s using the decision as motivation for his offseason
This is a 2018 photo of Peter Alonso of the New York Mets baseball team. This image reflects the Mets active roster as of Feb. 21, 2018 when this image was taken. Alonso finally put on a uniform at Citi Field on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Just not as part of New York’s active roster. Alonso was honored on the field as the Mets’ minor league player of the year about two weeks after New York frustrated its fans by declining to promote him to the major leagues. Alonso says he was “disappointed” to be kept off the major league roster, but he’s using the decision as motivation for his offseason AP

For a brief moment Wednesday, Peter Alonso had a sobering dose of reality.

He took batting practice at Citi Field, fielded ground balls and pop flies and soaked in the atmosphere before being honored as the New York Mets’ minor-league player of the year.

“Citi Field is a cathedral,” said Alonso, the former Florida Gators first baseman. “It’s an incredible place to play and awesome to get some good work in.”

He will have to wait a little bit longer before having the chance to play a game there, though.

Despite tearing up the minor leagues to a tune of a .285 batting average with 36 home runs and 119 RBI, the Mets snubbed Alonso of a potential September call-up with what Alonso called a “business decision.”

“I’m disappointed about not being here,” said Alonso, the Mets’ second-ranked prospect and the No. 61 overall prospect in MLB according to mlb.com. “I just have to trust the process.”

If the process works out the way he hopes, Alonso — as well as a host of his former teammates from his college days — have the chance to see the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Two former Gators from the past four draft classes are already in the majors in St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader and Boston Red Sox pitcher Bobby Poyner. Bader has been a mainstay in the Cardinals’ lineup, hitting .270 with 10 home runs, 32 RBI, 53 runs scored and 15 stolen bases heading into Thursday’s games. Poyner was on the Red Sox’s Opening Day roster and has compiled a 1.72 ERA with 16 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings of relief despite dealing with injuries for a majority of the season.

Alonso and two of his former UF teammates — pitchers Shaun Anderson (San Francisco Giants) and AJ Puk (Oakland Athletics) — are likely on the next wave of call-ups at some point in 2019.

Eight others — pitchers Alex Faedo (Detroit Tigers), Brady Singer (Kansas City Royals), Jackson Kowar (Kansas City), Logan Shore (Oakland) and Dane Dunning (Chicago White Sox); infielders Jonathan India (Cincinnati Reds) and shortstop Richie Martin (Oakland); and outfielder Buddy Reed (San Diego Padres) — are among the top 15 prospects in their respective organizations, according to mlb.com.

“Next year is going to be a really big year for all of us guys,” Alonso said. “All of us are working and continuing to get better. It’s awesome to see that. We were waking up at 6 in the morning to go lift and then grind through tough SEC play and go to the World Series. To see those guys perform in pro ball, it’s amazing to see.”

Especially considering how dominant they were during their college days. Those 14 players — in some combination — played a pivotal role in the Gators’ run to four consecutive College World Series appearances. Alonso served as a slugging force at the plate during his junior year, hitting .374 with 14 home runs and 60 RBI.

Florida’s success reached its peak in 2017, the year after Alonso went pro, when the Gators finally broke through to win the College World Series.

“Pretty much most of those kids were my teammates,” Alonso said of UF’s title-winning team. “That’s so special. It took a long time but it was worth it. I feel proud.”

Alonso is now chasing his major-league dream after being taken in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. And after 59 home runs and 203 RBI in two minor-league seasons, the logic dictates he will make it there at some point next season if he can improve his first-base defense. For now, he’s prepping for the Arizona Fall League, which begins on Oct. 9.

“I feel like I need to prove myself out there,” Alonso said. “Some of the best prospects in the game [will be there]. I just want to show I can do that next year, have a good spring training and we’ll see what happens.”

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