ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa native Pete Alonso had so much to be excited about this weekend playing at Tropicana Field for the first time as a big-leaguer.
He got to be part of the family birthday celebration for his father, Peter. He would see plenty of familiar faces in the stands. He could proudly show off his Tom Brady jersey, which he wore to the ballpark along with his Bucs creamsicle cap.
But most of all, he got to enjoy a weekend working from home.
“People in the baseball world, or players at least, it’s very uncommon to be in our home city, where we’re from, or where we buy our house, or wherever we have our families,” Alonso said. “It’s very rare, because we’re all spread out the majority of the year.
“To be able to sleep in my own bed, drive my own car to my job, it really is a blessing. And it’s something for me I really appreciate. I mean, it’s awesome. It’s really awesome to be able to be here in my hometown.”
That the game didn’t go well — Alonso striking out a career-high-tying four times, his Mets losing 3-2 on a walkoff hit by his former travel ball teammate Brett Phillips — was only a slight blemish on the trip.
Fortuitously — “a blessing from the baseball gods,” Alonso said — the Mets were off Thursday, so he got an extra day in Tampa, and then he got to be with his father on Friday as he turned 60.
“There’s nothing more rewarding as a parent to see one of your children achieve their goals,” said Peter Alonso, wearing a Mets orange shirt, sitting in the stands with his wife, Michelle. “It’s outstanding. It’s the biggest birthday present I could get, to see the smile on his face when he’s on the field enjoying himself and taking in the moment.”
Even more so at his home field. “Surreal,” Michelle Alonso said.
An All-Star and the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year, Alonso played at the Trop once previously, as a Plant High senior in the 2013 Pinellas-Hillsborough showcase. “I had a pretty good game,” he said. “It was an exciting thing.”
Alonso raved about the other talented players from the Tampa Bay area that also made it to the majors. He played on the same travel ball team with Phillips, the Rays outfielder and Seminole native.
“It’s crazy,” Alonso said. “It’s such a small world.”
Alonso watched a lot of Rays games as a kid — pointing out that he was more a fan of baseball than of any specific team — and really enjoyed the 2008 team’s run to the World Series, citing Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton among those he enjoyed seeing play.
He remembered being the kid who got to bring the ball and resin bag to the mound before a game and going to one of the American League Championship Series games against the Red Sox.
While he didn’t have a rooting interest in the 2020 World Series — “I didn’t care who won or lost. We were out of it.” — he was all in on the Bucs in the Super Bowl, rooting on the team at Raymond James Stadium.
“I love being a part of my hometown. I love being a part of my city,” he said. “Being there at the Super Bowl, that was really special. To be able to see Tampa win it in Tampa, that’s history.”
He considered showing his Tampa Bay pride by wearing his Brady jersey for batting practice but — probably wisely given the controversy someone would find in it — thought better of it.
But his feelings were, and will be, quite clear all weekend.
“I love Tampa,” he said. “I love my home. And it’s a special place for me.”
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