Every so often, a swing comes around that stops everything.
Carlos Delgado had one. When Carlos Delgado swung and made contact, the world stopped. All that existed was the bat, tiny and still in Delgado’s hand after finishing its vicious left-handed uppercut, and the ball, hurtling through the air like a golf ball, soaring a mile high and a mile far. It even sounded like a golf ball. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Delgado’s fundamentals, and they probably weren’t perfect. But when you combined all the pieces, his swing came together in a blaze of glory. When Carlos Delgado batted, pitchers cowered, and fans salivated and stared. You couldn’t miss a Delgado at-bat. His swing was too powerful to pass up.
Now, there is Pete Alonso.
Alonso won his spot in the front of our minds, if we’re honest, in his first at-bat of the Spring, when he took his first swing of Spring Training and cleared the billboards above the center field fence. It wasn’t a Delgado swing; it was level and balanced, not pulling off towards right field but blasting the ball directly forwards. It didn’t sound like Delgado either; this was no golf drive, soaring into space and landing a mile away. This was an old-fashioned crack of the bat. You could hear it echo around the stadium. It was one of those swings. The swings we’ll remember.
He further solidified his reputation as power-hitter of record a few weeks later against the Red Sox. A Red Sox broadcaster was interviewing Xander Bogaerts in the dugout, and in the midst of a riff about mentoring Rafael Devers, Bogaerts paused when Alonso blasted a ball so far beyond the pseudo-Green Monster in left field that the camera couldn’t find it. “Oh my God, it’s gone,” he said. Then he turned back to talking about Devers, but he couldn’t even finish a sentence before he turned back to Alonso again. “Oh yeah,” he said. “That was loud.”
It was loud. It was far. And quickly, I’ve come to expect it every time Alonso bats. Because Pete Alonso has one of those swings.
Fundamentals? Launch angle? Technique? I couldn’t tell you. They’re all important: I just don’t know what he does with them. What I do know, though, is that Pete Alonso’s swing is something to be treasured and revered. It’s one of those swings, and that’s as well as I can describe it. With every pitch he sees, the third deck beckons and Tommie Agee watches nervously. When he swings, the world is at his fingertips. He has the kind of power that comes around once a decade or less, the kind of power that we’ll remember in 50 years. Lots of players have power, but few know how to express it. Delgado did. Alonso does too.
I don’t know where Pete Alonso will start the season. If we’re serious about winning this season, he should be the first baseman on March 28th in Washington: Free agency is years away, and with what we’ve seen so far, even if we send him to the minors for only two weeks and not a day longer, we’ll be missing out on four or five home runs, and four or five monstrous home runs at that.
But regardless of where he starts, sooner or later he’ll step into the batter’s box at Citi Field. Laser-focused, the entire stadium will turn towards home plate. Cell phones will disappear; drinks will land in cup holders; scorebooks will vanish. Camera will flash all around the stadium; ushers will turn away from their concourses towards the field; concession lines will empty as Alonso strides to the plate and digs in. And then he’ll take a swing, and part the night air like a steam engine as his bat explodes towards the ball…and the rest is for the history books.
A first baseman with a swing from God, a swing that turns casual fans into believers, a swing that can stop time and start it again. A swing that sends balls so high and deep that the only question is how far beyond the fence they’ll land. One of those swings.
It’s the kind of swing that changes a team and its fans, the kind of swing we need like nobody’s business. And down in Port St. Lucie, Pete Alonso is announcing loudly and clearly that if we’ll just take him back to Queens with us, the swing will finally arrive.