WASHINGTON — Pete Alonso can be found at his locker, after every game, hunched over a black and white marble composition notebook with a pen in his hand.
It’s a habitual postgame pattern for the Mets first baseman. He wraps up a game and, depending on the excitement of that night’s final out, he may celebrate with his teammates in the clubhouse first or wrap up a conversation with a coach or a front office member. but always, alwaysAlonso will return to that notebook and convert his thoughts into words before he leaves the ballpark for the night.
Whether it be sequences, game situations or certain game plays, any given notebook entry may be different than the last.
“I’ll sit after a game and reflect and confirm what I’ve gotten better at,” Alonso told the Daily News. “Or if there’s something I want to change, whether it be decision-making at the plate or decisions in the field. For example, I feel like I’ve done a really good job defensively this year. So I’m not just writing down things where I could change, but I’ll keep confirming certain things that I can keep being good at.”
That daily routine provides an introspective moment from a baseball player who values the feel of the game just as much as the data, analytics and information that swirl in and out of organizations before and after every matchup. It’s Alonso’s version of a constructive assessment, a report card, on his year-to-year performance and personal growth.
Alonso has kept up with the practice throughout his four years in the big leagues.
But the marble notebook entries began during Alonso’s days at the University of Florida, where he evolved into the Gators’ most dangerous hitter. Alonso has bought a new marble notebook at the start of every season and starts filling the pages with details, both positive and unfavorable, that stood out to him from his work in that day’s game. It can be his own thoughts, or something someone else will say.
If Alonso commits an error at first base, something he’s only done once through his first 23 games playing the position this year, you better believe that miscue will make its way into his notebook before he puts on his street clothes and gets into a car or bus to go back to his house or hotel that night. Diligently recording his thoughts has helped him stay on track or, in the event of an error or a particularly ugly strikeout, get back on track.
This season so far has featured more of the former, as the first baseman has smashed eight home runs in the first month of 2022. Though he’s found ways to clobber the ball, Alonso knows baseball is a game of peaks and valleys, while his notebook is the constant.
“Baseball is a day to day thing,” Alonso said. “So I want to continue the good stuff that I do, continue the routine, create any momentum from one day to the next. I just want to keep compounding good days together and I want to continue to learn how I can get better even when I’m not doing well.
“So it’s all relative from day to day, but baseball, as much as there’s information out there, it’s also a big feel sport as well. You can’t really use the information if you’re not feeling right. So I’m going to continue to have that feel, have that stuff in my mind that’s clicking so I can utilize data and stuff like that so I can be productive on the field.”
There is something to be said about Alonso maintaining his marble notebook routine from college, through his historic NL Rookie of the Year season, through an All-Star year, through two consecutive Home Run Derby championships, all the way to his fourth season in the majors
The Pinstripe Express
The Daily News sports editors handpick the week’s best Yankees stories from our award-winning columnists and beat writers. Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.
Alonso, 27, believes he will always be a student of the game, so he doesn’t envision a moment when he’ll ditch the notebook. It’s become a part of his baseball journey, a career which he is certain is only just beginning.
Jeff McNeil has batted eighth in the Mets lineup in 14 out of his 30 games played this year, which is not where fans would expect the Amazin’s best hitter to be hitting every day. Manager Buck Showalter said the front office has certainly considered moving McNeil up in the order, but the club likes the boost and versatility the second baseman provides to the bottom of the order.
“It’s just nice to have such a versatile piece,” Showalter said. “He can be a lead-off hitter, or a three-hole hitter. He can go about anywhere. He’s a big asset for us.”
McNeil entered Wednesday hitting .333 — the seventh-best average in MLB and fourth-best in the NL. He’s the only hitter in the Mets lineup that owns an average of .300 or higher. Opposing teams, Showalter noticed, will try to shift against McNeil only for the lefty hitter to rip one into empty space. The skipper said McNeil batting eighth creates better matchups after the sixth inning, after which the opposing starter typically exits, and it allows the Mets to space out the threats in their lineup.
“You want to create the biggest challenge for a guy to grind through,” Showalter said. “And then if he moves up, somebody else has to move down. Our guys haven’t really gotten into the ego of a batting order yet. One, because some teammate would say, ‘well, who should you be hitting in front of?’ I wouldn’t want to have that conversation.”
The Mets are a season-high 11 games above .500, which matches their high water mark on paper from 2021 (36-25). Although the club was never actually more than 10 games over .500 at any point last year. A win in a suspended game from April 11, 2021 was completed in August, and it retroactively boosted the team’s record.
The last time the Mets were 11 or more games above .500 entering play was when they were 13 games above .500 on Oct. 1, 2016 (87-74). The Mets own a seven game lead in the division, which is their largest divisional lead since they were nine and a half games ahead on Sept. 27, 2015.