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Queens Chronicle

Home run hero Pete

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2019 10:30 am

By winning the Home Run Derby in Cleveland last Monday Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso gave the Flushing faithful a rare chance to thump their collective chests.

With the Mets out of contention for postseason baseball barring a miracle it’s understandable that Alonso, who had 30 homers going into the All-Star Game break in addition to winning the derby, will be the primary focus of the attention of both fans and the media. Granted, the Mets have another good story in infielder/outfielder Jeff McNeil who entered the break hitting .349 and is a contender for the National League batting championship, but my guess is that he’ll be overshadowed by Alonso’s heroics.

While home runs are what have made Alonso a household name in these parts, he is not a one-dimensional slugger the way that Dave Kingman was in the 1970s. While he’ll absorb his share of strikeouts Alonso is a very good contact hitter who hits to all parts of the field quite well. As Fox broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith said about Alonso during a Phillies-Mets telecast two weeks ago, “That’s why he is batting .280 and not .220!”

Although I am certain that Alonso has been deluged with lucrative endorsement deals he seems to have eschewed them in order to concentrate on baseball matters. That is a wise decision in that it will give him time to both build his fame and thus get on the radar screen of sponsors. Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, for example, is a Pepsi-Cola endorser. When the endorsement bucks do come Alonso’s way, he really should give a percentage to Mets third baseman Todd Frazier who bestowed the nickname “The Polar Bear” on him. The odds are that Frazier, whose contract expires at the end of the season, will be traded this month. His clubhouse leadership will be sorely missed.

The million-dollar check that comes with winning the Home Run Derby more than doubled Alonso’s rookie Mets salary. To his credit, Alonso announced that he would be donating $50,000 to both the Wounded Warriors Project and to the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, which raises money for families of first responders.

The last time that Mets fans were this excited about a rookie was six years ago when pitcher Matt Harvey was dominating baseball and it seemed like there wasn’t an empty seat in Citi Field when he was on the mound.

Unlike Harvey, Alonso thankfully is not a self-absorbed jerk. Like his Bronx counterpart, Judge, he is happy to engage media and fans and doesn’t need a phalanx of PR people to act as a security force to keep the hoi polloi away. Let’s hope he never changes.

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen displayed a nice self-effacing wit when NY Post beat writer Mike Puma asked him in his media session in Miami Friday night if he had any regrets over his statement when he was hired last fall that the Mets would be the team to beat in the National League East. “Well, they came and got us!” he replied with a smile while promising that the Mets’ bad fortunes would be reversed soon.

Former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton had been bravely battling dementia for years before succumbing to it last Wednesday at the age of 80. He was a dependable pitcher but he will be most remembered for his 1970 book, “Ball Four,” which explored what life was really like behind the scenes in the big leagues

Bouton took a lot of heat for revealing Mickey Mantle’s drinking issues which was certainly a factor in Mantle’s passing at the age of 63. What really shook up the baseball establishment, however, were the revelations about what players liked to do on the road after games and it didn’t exactly jibe with the milk and cookies image that had been carefully crafted.

“Ball Four” forced fans and the sports media at the time to grow up, drop the innocent rose-colored view of both athletes and professional sports and to start seeing it as a big business that had more than its share of warts that had been swept under the rug for too long.

The New Jersey Devils held their rookie developmental camp at the Prudential Center last week. Being in an ice rink on a scorching July day was both refreshing and a bit strange.

The marquee attraction for the fans was Jack Hughes, an 18-year-old American player, who was the first pick in the 2019 amateur draft and is thought by many to have the potential to be an NHL superstar in the echelon of Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Hughes told the media that he doesn’t see himself as the face of the Devils franchise, let alone the National Hockey League, but he does understand the hoopla that comes with being a No. 1 pick.

Devils head coach John Hynes bristled when he was asked about the higher expectations for his team in the upcoming season now that they have added NHL standouts as defenseman PK Subban and winger Wayne Simmonds in addition to newcomer Jack Hughes. “If we work hard then we’ll make the playoffs,” was his reply.

Hynes was also diplomatic regarding his phone conversations with PK Subban. The Devils have long emphasized the importance of team over the individual and Subban has garnered a reputation of placing his brand and stats above all.

I asked Hynes if the urbane Subban, who loves visiting New York City, had asked him about the Big Apple and the Devils’ proximity to it. He responded by citing all of the positive attributes of the Garden State.

Newly acquired Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant may be following LeBron James into the entertainment industry. Durant served as the executive producer to a recent Fox Sports 1 documentary, “Q Ball,” which looked at how basketball has enriched the lives of prisoners at California’s famous San Quentin Prison.

The death of former New York Jets head coach Walt Michaels, who served as an assistant coach on their lone Super Bowl-winning team, received surprisingly little coverage in the New York media.

Polo is extremely popular in the Caribbean nation of Barbados, which is a sponsor of the summer matches at the Greenwich Polo Club. Visit Barbados, that nation’s tourism bureau, had a trip for media this past Sunday to watch polo there.

Longtime hockey broadcaster and Bayside High School alum Ashley Scharge summed up polo to me pretty well by saying that it’s like hockey but with horses and mallets instead of skates and sticks. Like hockey, it’s very exciting to watch in person.

Life and style

This coming Sunday is National Ice Cream Day. Carvel stores nationwide are offering buy one, get one free deals on their soft ice cream cups and cones.

Hydration is crucial all through the year but it’s especially obvious during the dog days of summer.

Coconut water, which for years was dominated by mass market brands as Vita Coco, Zico and O.N.E., are getting increased competition based on what I observed at the recent Fancy Food Show held at the Javits Center. Among the newer brands who were promoting their usage of superior quality coconuts from sustainable farms were Obrigado, Harmless Harvest, Coco Luxe and CocoWell, whose corporate headquarters are located in Long Island City.

Another hydration trend that I noticed at the Fancy Food Show was the specialization of bottled water. The deliberately misspelled Oxigen Water purports to have more oxygen molecules which purports to improve circulation and increase stamina when exercising. Another growing category in the bottled water space is alkaline water which has a pH level above 7 and based on the chemistry we learned in high school helps neutralize stomach acids. Among the brands trying to get market share in this sector are Alkaline 88, Alkazone and Flow Hydration.

For those who are interested in a different type of beverage, the current issue of Wine Spectator honors the restaurants around the country who have the best wine lists.

Fish fry and clambakes are not as common as barbecues but if you get invited to one and you need to bring something Chincoteague Seafood Company, located in the heart of the Maryland eastern shore, has a variety of gift sets that include their gourmet soups, clams and lobster dips, as well as bowls. Even if you don’t have a special occasion their soups put mass market brands to shame.

One of the seminal memories of the youth of any baby boomer was the Apollo 11 mission in which American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of that monumental accomplishment.

Not surprisingly there have been a plethora of documentaries on that lunar landing that are airing on the various cable and broadcast television networks. If you want to get a terrific summary of them log onto the entertainment industry digital publication, the Atkin Report (atkinreport.com).

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