NEW YORK – Polar Bear Pete is headed to the Home Run Derby.
New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso plans to compete in the power-hitting contest during All-Star week in Cleveland next month.
The big first baseman said Friday he accepted an invitation from Major League Baseball to participate July 8 regardless of whether he’s selected to the National League squad for the game the following night.
“It’s going to be awesome. I’m just really excited,” Alonso said.
The 24-year-old slugger entered Friday tied for second in the majors with 27 home runs, an NL rookie record before the All-Star break and already a Mets rookie mark for a full season. He went deep against Atlanta Braves starter Mike Soroka in the fourth inning for No. 28.
Alonso, nicknamed Polar Bear Pete, was not elected by fans to start the All-Star Game but could be chosen as a backup when pitchers and reserves are announced Sunday.
Either way, he’s pumped up about the derby. The winner gets $1 million.
“I’m going to be ready to go,” Alonso said. “It’s just something I’ve always looked forward to. I grew up kind of the same person I am now, just a big power hitter, and it’s something that is like, man, hopefully I get to do this one day. So, I’m really excited and hopefully I get to be there for the game, too.”
“That’d be surreal,” he added later. “Just total icing on the cake.”
Alonso said his cousin, Derek Morgan, who played college baseball at St. Bonaventure, will likely be his batting practice pitcher. The rookie said Morgan threw to him recently in Atlanta and they’ll practice again next week at Citi Field.
“He lays it in there good. He’s got a good arm slot,” Alonso said.
“I’m trying to win it, obviously. But I think that for me, I just want to go out there and have fun and represent the Mets in a really great way.”
New York teammate and buddy Jeff McNeil walked through the Mets’ dugout Friday afternoon carrying a giant stuffed polar bear.
“This is Pete,” McNeil said, smiling.
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