PORT ST. LUCIE — While Tim Tebow is getting national attention with each at bat with the St. Lucie Mets, another former Gator is performing at a high level with less fanfare.
Former UF first baseman Peter Alonso has overcome adversity for the second straight year to enjoy a breakout second season in professional baseball in the New York Mets organization. In 57 games with the high-A St. Lucie Mets, Alonso is batting .265 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs.
Alonso’s 12 homers are the most for a St. Lucie player since Dustin Lawley hit 25 home runs in 2013 to earn Florida State League Player of the Year honors.
“I’ve been seeing well and I’ve been capitalizing on pitches that I should drive,” Alonso said. “The main goal is just to execute at the plate and swing at good pitches and stay disciplined.”
A second-round pick of the Mets in 2016, Alonso played last season in low-A Brooklyn before being promoted to St. Lucie this spring. But his 2017 campaign got off to a disheartening start when he broke a bone in his hand eight games into the season after being hit by a pitch. It was the same hand he broke in his final season at Florida in 2016 after being hit by a pitch against Vanderbilt.
“Same hand, different bone,” Alonso said. “It was very, very frustrating when it happened especially very early in the year, just out of the gate, but I’m back and I’m finally doing well again and I’m just going to continue to progress and get better each day.”
Alonso was one of the driving offensive forces behind back-to-back College World Series appearances in 2015 and 2016. He took delight in watching UF’s run to the 2017 national title, its first in school history.
“I was incredibly happy for the boys because I’ve been through it, I’ve been to Omaha, it’s extremely difficult to win out there,” Alonso said. “I know the work it takes and the dedication and how hard it is. They deserve it, 100 percent, all those kids, they are going to remember that the rest of their life and I’m proud of them.”
There are a number of Gator connections in the St. Lucie clubhouse. Former UF pitcher Johnny Magliozzi is a St. Lucie teammate and is 4-1 this season with a 3.93 ERA and six saves. Former standout Gator pitcher Marc Valdes, who went on to a six-year MLB career, is St. Lucie’s pitching coach.
Then, of course, there is Tebow, who was promoted to St. Lucie last month. Tebow went 3 for 5 with an RBI against Bradenton on Wednesday night to improve his batting average to .315 and OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) to .922.
“He’s an incredibly nice guy,” Alonso said. “Good guy. He’s extremely positive. He’s a good guy to have in a clubhouse.”
Alonso said his goals for the remainder of the season are to improve defensively at first base and maintain his consistent, or what he calls simple, approach at the plate. Whether that results in another promotion heading into next season remains to be seen. Certainly, Alonso is high on the Mets organizational radar, based on his power potential and draft status. Alonso ranks 11th on MLB.com’s list of Top 30 prospects in the New York Mets system.
“Ultimately I want to play in the big leagues, but I can’t think about being in the big leagues when I’m here right now,” Alonso said. “Right now I’m here, I’m here for a reason and I need to get better. I want to continue to work on myself and get better and become a better baseball player and become a better human being, a better teammate, just be the best I possibly can here and advance whenever they tell me.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or email@example.com. Also check out Brockway’s blog at Gatorsports.com.