New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who is coming off a record-setting rookie season, says baseball players are ready to return, even if fans cannot. Amid thelockdowns, Alonso is preparing for the eventual start to the season and launching a new charity to recognize unsung heroes.
With the, this was the first April in a long time that Alonso hasn't played baseball.
"I actually haven't been home in the month of April since I was a senior in high school," he told "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil from Tampa. "It's kind of strange."
The first baseman has been working out at his private gym to stay in shape during this time.
"Whenever we get going again, ... I just have to stay ready as I can and just want to stay locked in," he said.
Alonso may be locked in for this season, but he's also looking back. The National League Rookie of the Year, who set franchise records for home runs, total bases and extra-base hits, recently wrote, "I catch myself every night watching 2019 Mets highlights," adding, it "never ceases to give me goosebumps."
"2019 was my favorite season of baseball I've ever had in my life," he told Dokoupil. "Seeing everything put together as a whole just really put a lot into perspective because the 2019 season, I think, was like a spark for our organization."
In that same social media post, he told fans, "I can't wait to hear y'all cheer your lungs out."
But if fans aren't allowed at games if and when the baseball season starts, Alonso said he's had experience playing in empty stadiums before.
"We didn't really have many fans in the minor leagues come to the games," he said.
Crowds or no crowds, Alonso said he is looking forward to playing again.
"I feel like sports in general, people rely on them so much because it makes them feel good inside," he said. "Having a sports season, it's like the sun goes up and sun goes down. It was almost that reliable."
But now, there's talk of having Opening Day in late June or early July, using modified leagues and possibly pushing the World Series much later than normal.
"I'd just be happy to play baseball. I hope we can play more than 100 games this year. And whatever cards we're dealt, we gotta play them because this is an unprecedented time," Alonso said. "As a professional baseball player, I will never hit a home run on my birthday. So if I get to hit a home run on December 7, that'd be crazy."
After the Home Run Derby last year, Alonso donated 10% of his winnings to charity. This spring, he continues to give back.
He sent personalized videos to Mets fans working on the front lines and is now launching a charity called Homers for Heroes, recognizing "everyday heroes" like Natalia Yulfo, who coaches softball at DREAM Charter school in New York, where more than 90% of students are below the poverty line.
Alonso surprised the team last week during a virtual workout, announcing a $10,000 grant to the school.
"I know how important coaches ... can be to these kids," Alonso said on the video call.
Yulfo said it was "a true honor."
"Being someone from this community ... it definitely feels good," she told Dokoupil.
It is "very hard" not to be able to play, get on a field or even go into a classroom, Yulfo said.
"I think it's the hardest when the kids reach out, and they're just, like, 'I really want to get outside. Like, I miss school,' which you would think you'd never hear from a teenager," she said. "And I think that that makes it the hardest when they're the ones hurting, so hopefully, we get back outside soon."
That's a sentiment shared by Alonso and so many others waiting for their own Opening Day.
"Not having something that is a dear and loved part of your life ... it's so frustrating. I think the work that they're putting to impact these kids for the better is truly remarkable," Alonso said.
In a separate effort, Alonso recently joined the ALL IN Challenge to help provide food to those in need. He auctioned off the opportunity to join him on a private fishing charter in Florida. The final bid was $70,000.