NEW YORK – Pete Alonso made a friendly offer to Kris Bryant in June, one that gave the Cubs star an appreciation for the Mets slugger’s big heart, but even more so for the breakout rookie’s big muscles.
During a series between the Mets and Chicago at Wrigley Field, Alonso gave one of his specially made 34-inch, 32-ounce birch bats to Bryant. The 2016 NL MVP used it for about a week, and even hit a long homer with it against Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel. In the end, though, the 6-foot-5 Bryant realized he didn’t have the might necessary to power Alonso’s weapon of choice.
“The bat he swings is so big, it’s so heavy,” Bryant said. “He’s an animal, man.”
Alonso is in the midst of a record-setting rookie season. The All-Star Home Run Derby champ broke the Mets’ season mark with his 42nd homer Tuesday night, which happened to come against Bryant and the Cubs at Citi Field.
A day later, Bryant reflected to The Associated Press on his weeklong trial with Alonso’s stick a couple months ago. The gesture was born out of a conversation at first base early in the four-game split at Wrigley. Bryant this season has experimented with an Axe Bat – a relatively new model of baseball bat with a nontraditional, axe-shaped handle.
While Axe Bat produces its own bats, some players prefer to get their wood from specialty suppliers that will work with Axe Bat to fuse one of its signature handles onto a non-Axe Bat model. Alonso, for instance, has swung a Dove Tail Bat with an axe handle for most of his pro career.
“(Bryant) was using the Axe Bat, like the actual Axe Bat wood, and I was like, ‘Dude, what are you doing using Axe Bat wood?’” Alonso said. “He’s like, ‘What do you mean?’ I’m like, ‘Well, you know other bat companies make the Axe Bat?’”
Alonso sent over one of his signature models, the PA20 – as in Pete Alonso, No. 20. Although the handle is narrow, Bryant said the bat has one of the biggest barrels he’s seen. The Cubs slugger felt like he was swinging a jumbo kids Wiffle bat – except it was solid birch all the way through.
“You just feel like you can hit any ball that’s thrown because the barrel is ridiculously big,” Bryant said. “You go up to the plate with a lot of confidence.”
Bryant had a hit during each game of the June series against the Mets, and Alonso ragged him when he got to first base.
“I was like, ‘I was hoping when I sent this over, you would do well with it,“’ he recalled. “‘But just not against us.“’
Although it’s normal for teammates to swap bats while trying to bust a slump, it’s highly unusual for a player to take an opponent’s bat into a big league game. Alonso said he has borrowed bats from other players – most recently, Pittsburgh’s Josh Bell – to test out in the batting cage, but he’s never heard of another big leaguer taking one straight into a game, like Bryant did.
Bryant also said it was uncommon, but he has done it once before. Last year, he borrowed a signature bat from Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies. Astonishingly, Bryant said the 5-foot-8 Albies used a bat even bigger than Alonso’s – a 34 1/2-inch, 32 1/2-ounce behemoth.
“It was big,” Bryant recalled. “I was like, ‘Man, he swings this bat?’ I’m swinging this tiny little bat.”
Although he gave up on Alonso’s model, Bryant has continued to use an Axe Bat throughout the season. He prefers a 34-inch, 31-ounce bat that – sorry, Pete – is made with Axe Bat’s wood. He’s used it well, bouncing back from an injury-shortened 2018 by hitting .282 with 26 homers this year.
He’ll leave the oversized PA20 to its namesake.
“He’s a big, strong dude,” Bryant said. “He swings it fast.”
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