ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pete Alonso in one sense is living the life of a normal working stiff this weekend.
And he’s loving it.
The Mets first baseman and Tampa native (he still resides in the area) awoke in his own house Friday and drove to work. It was an odd feeling for somebody used to the grind of professional baseball life, in which hotels and buses on the road are the norm.
“A lot of people take this for granted, but to actually sleep in my own bed, at my own house and to be able to drive my own car to my job, it’s crazy,” Alonso said before the Mets faced the Rays at Tropicana Field. “It really is a blessing and something I appreciate.”
Alonso attended Jesuit High School in Tampa for his freshman and sophomore years. He spent the next two years at Tampa’s Plant High School in Tampa, whose baseball alumni include Wade Boggs (for whom the baseball field is named). The Astros’ Kyle Tucker is another Plant High alumnus.
Alonso only had to look across to the Rays’ dugout at Brett Philips — the two played travel baseball together growing up — to get more of the hometown feel. Alonso named Lance McCullers Jr., Oscar Mercado and Christian Arroyo as other Tampa products with whom he is friendly.
In his youth Alonso attended games at Tropicana Field, but said he identified more as a “baseball junkie” than a Rays fan. He recalled attending a 2008 ALCS game against the Red Sox with his father, when the Rays were led by stars such as Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton.
Last year, when the Rays reached the World Series, Alonso said he was unmoved to root for the local team.
“I wanted certain guys that I knew, me and [Austin] Meadows, we have a mutual friend, a mutual fishing buddy, I wanted those guys to do well,” Alonso said. “But, for me, if the New York Mets aren’t in the playoffs, I watch the games because I love baseball, but honestly I didn’t care who won or lost. We were out of it, so it doesn’t really have any effect.”
But it was a different story for Alonso when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were assembling a run through the postseason that culminated with the hoisting of the Super Bowl trophy on their own turf, Raymond James Stadium.
“I was there the whole time,” Alonso said. “I love being a part of my hometown, I love being part of my city and it’s really special. Being there at the Super Bowl was really special and to be able to see Tampa win it in Tampa, that is history and it’s special.”
Alonso noted that he wore his Tom Brady jersey to the ballpark Friday and was considering keeping it on during batting practice, but changed his mind.
“I love Tampa,” he said. “I love my home and it’s a special place for me.”
Before Friday, the last time Alonso had played at the Trop was as a high-school senior in 2013 in an All-Star game that featured players from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Alonso played third base in that game.
Only adding to the thrill of this weekend, Alonso’s father, Pete Sr., celebrated his birthday Friday. The younger Alonso said he had already taken care of the gift and anything produced on the field would be extra.
Alonso entered play with a .259/.372/.463 slash line with five homers and 17 RBIs for a team that had won seven straight games.
“To have this series,” Alonso said. “It’s truly a blessing from the baseball gods.”