The Untold Truth Of Pete Alonso, Two Time Home Run Derby Champ

In 2019, fans of Major League Baseball were head-over-heels for Mets slugger Pete Alonso. At the beginning of that season — Alonso's rookie year — ESPN called him "literally baseball's next big thing." Then he proved the network absolutely right. He went on to break records and win awards one after the other, in the process reminding the nation that New York City has two MLB teams. "It's a dream to be here," Alonso said of his spot on the Mets, "but I'm also enjoying my time here."

Unfortunately, his sophomore year was tripped up by the COVID-19 pandemic that shortened the season, giving Alonso fewer opportunities to reroute 100-mph pitches out of the ballpark. Yahoo! Life noted that his 2020 stats dipped below his soaring numbers from the year before, referring to the season as his "sophomore slump," one "to forget." The New York Post called his 2020 "underwhelming," but reported that he was working hard with the Mets' analytics team to rally for the 2021 season. And rally he did. On July 12, 2021, with the Mets leading the NL East division with 47 wins, Alonso successfully defended his 2019 title as Home Run Derby champion (it was cancelled in 2020). According to CBS, Alonso believes he is "the best power hitter in the game," and now he's got a cool $1-million prize to back up that claim. (He's actually donating it to charity.) Let's take a deeper dive into the life and career of Pete Alonso, baseball's current big thing.

Pete Alonso played other sports before finally deciding on baseball

Pete Alonso grew up in Tampa Bay, Florida. Looking to escape the violence and civil unrest of the Spanish Civil War, his paternal grandfather, Peter Conrad Alonso, emigrated to New York City in the 1930s. He started his family there in Queens, where young Pete's father was born, before moving the family to Ohio. That second generation of the Alonso family moved to Florida, where Pete attended high school and university. Although he swings like he was born to hold a bat, like many professional athletes, Pete dabbled in other team sports before finally deciding on America's pastime. The New York Times reports that he played lacrosse and football in high school.

But by the time he enrolled at the University of Florida, he had decided to make baseball his sport. Hinting at what was to come of his professional career debut, Alonso's freshman year saw him get named All-Southeastern Conference. He and the Florida Gators went on to compete in the College World Series in 2015 and 2016. However, Alonso's spectacular college years were merely a harbinger of what has become a record-breaking professional career that only promises to give fans more of what they love about this hard-hitting ballplayer.

He says his spot on the Mets was 'meant to be'

While he himself didn't grow up in the New York City borough of Queens — where the Mets are located — Alonso does find it interesting that his career has led him to the place where his grandfather went to make a new, safe life for his family. "I just think that life comes full circle," he told the Tampa Bay Times in 2019. "The universe has a funny way of working itself out. It's absolutely insane that I'm back here. It's kind of weird. It almost feels like I was meant to be here."

Even if it was destiny that brought him to the team, the road to get there wasn't an easy one. Alonso's swing has never been a problem area of his game, but the first baseman's lackluster defense was a difficult hurdle for him to overcome. The New York Times reports that his need for improvement on defense was the reason the Mets delayed his promotion to the big leagues, but he worked hard to make up for what his fielding lacked. He ended up working his way to a starting spot at first base, and Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said he was "probably the most improved defensive guy" the team had seen for quite a while. Then in his rookie season in 2019, Alonso went on to show the Mets that they'd made the right decision.

Alonso began breaking records right off the bat

While his defense may have impressed his coaches, Alonso's bat was the star of the show during his rookie season in 2019. He won the Home Run Derby in July, and in September ESPN reported that he had hit his 53rd regular season home run as a rookie, breaking the previous record set by Yankee Aaron Judge in 2017. His stellar first season in the big leagues was capped off with an MLB Rookie of the Year Award.

Alonso's rookie year is even more impressive when put in a historical context. As the MLB notes, he is one of just six rookies to lead their leagues in home runs. Of those six, only two — Mark McGuire in 1987 and Tim Jordan in 1906 — tied for the most home runs in the Majors in their rookie years. But Alonso stands out among these greats, as he is the only rookie to have led the entire MLB outright in home runs. Starting off with a bang is nothing new for Pete Alonso. It's kind of his thing. He told The New York Times that his first word as a baby was "ball." He gets right to the point, does his job spectacularly, and comes away with the win, as illustrated by his repeat Home Run Derby win in 2021.

Pete Alonso's spectacular back-to-back Home Run Derby wins

When Pete Alonso won the 2019 Home Run Derby, the MLB reported that he was the second rookie to ever win the event. (The first was Aaron Judge in 2017.) He smacked 23 homers in the final round against Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to win it all by just one home run. Due to a neck-and-neck matchup in the semifinals that went to three rounds of swing-offs, Guerrero Jr. actually hit a lot more home runs overall than Alonso — 34 to be exact. But Alonso had what it took to win out in the finals. "It's survive and advance," he said. "You've got to go in with kind of a killer instinct. It doesn't matter how many you hit; you just need to have one more than the guy you're facing."

The coronavirus pandemic put the kibosh on the 2020 Home Run Derby, so when the time came in 2021, Pete Alonso was competing as the defending champion. The MLB called his defended title a "Re-Pete!" And Alonso called himself "the best power hitter on the planet." That may sound a little arrogant, but he did just become one of only three players to have ever taken back-to-back Home Run Derbies. Alonso called his repeat win a "dream come true," since he used to be allowed to stay up past his bedtime to watch the competition when he was a kid.

Pete Alonso quit social media because he wants to 'live in real life'

In addition to hit home runs, Alonso also posted a lot of messages and hashtags on social media during his rookie season. He popularized the hashtag #LFGM (Let's F****** Go, Mets) that year, making it a rallying cry for a team that really needed one. However, as the New York Post reported in February 2021, the slugger went silent online during the preceding off season, closing his Twitter and Instagram accounts. He said that the pandemic made him notice the things he'd missed in the real world as a result of the time he spent in the digital one.

"I think that real life is just absolutely fantastic and for me, I think life is a blessing, it's something that I feel like a lot of people, sometimes including myself, take for granted," he said. "I just want to be appreciative of every single day. I want to live in real life." He said that he is looking forward to another kind of connection with his fans, the kind where thousands cheer him on as he rounds the bases at a leisurely trot. He said that making a stadium full of fans "go absolutely bonkers" is an addiction for him, and he can't wait to get his fix.