Keidel: Aaron Judge And Pete Alonso Are Perfect Ambassadors For Baseball

Baseball In The Big Apple Should Be Set For Years To Come

Jason Keidel
February 18, 2020 - 1:17 pm

Had Stan Lee been tasked with making a home run-hitting baseball player, he'd likely make him a Yankee. He'd likely have the comic book contours: 6-foot-7 and nearly 300 pounds of chiseled basher. And, in the spirit of the postwar superhero, he would be as impossibly modest as he was uncannily powerful.

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In other words, he'd be Aaron Judge, who comes from central casting for home run royalty. He plays for baseball's signature franchise, at its most hallowed position. He burst on the scene in 2017 with a rookie season for the ages, when he blasted 52 homers, drove in 114 runs, finished second in the AL MVP voting and lapped the field to win the Rookie of the Year award. Not only can Judge destroy your team with NASA-style moon shots, he's also got a howitzer for an arm in right field. 

Had Walt Disney been asked to sketch the same player, hd'e be big, but not as Bunyanesque. He wouldn't be quite as ripped or reserved. He'd be a certified goofball, and have a cartoonish handle, like Polar Bear. 

In other words, he'd be Pete Alonso, the rollicking first baseman for the Mets. When Judge clubbed 52 homers in his maiden MLB season, the baseball world figured it would be the gold standard for a few decades. Yet two years later, Alonso rubbed an eraser across the record book, smashing 53 homers, driving in 120 runs, while running away with the NL Rookie of the Year award. 

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates his third inning solo home run against the Atlanta Braves as he comes onto the field for the fourth inning at Citi Field. The home run was his 53rd of the season breaking the rookie record.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Had a novelist buried himself (or herself) in a new book, charged with framing the twin pillars of the long balll, they would play in America's biggest market, which would also be one of our last true baseball towns. Which means they would play in the Big Apple, pining to be the apple of the young fan's eye.

There's nothing more cinematic than the expected battle for Big Apple supremacy between Judge and Alonso. Not only are they central figures on their respective clubs, they are easy to cheer for the home fans, and almost impossible to hate for opposing fans. And while Yankees fans feel no love for the Mets, and Mets fans feel white-hot scorn for the Yanks -- and we all loathe the poseur who pretends to love both teams -- there are thousands of local youngsters who have yet to grow into their fandom, and will make their decision at least in part by how well these two sluggers play.

Judge and Alonso aren't just a pair of cool cats who happen to be Gamma Ray strong. They are ambassadors for baseball, faces of their franchise and our town, which still puts our pastime first. Even as the NFL has conquered America's heart, NYC still has a baseball soul. And you won't find a more fun or fitting pair of franchise players than Judge and Alonso.

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge celebrates during the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics in the American League wild-card game on Oct. 3, 2018, at Yankee Stadium.

Judge has been saddled with injuries, hitting barely more home runs his last two seasons (54) than he did in his stellar rookie season. Alonso is hoping to skip a sophomore slump and the injury bug. Both won the Home Run Derby as rookies. Both hit 30 homers before the All-Star Game. And neither was hit by the infamous curse that comes with it.  

Both should post monster stats this summer. Judge, 27, brings the deadliest bat to the most lethal lineup on the planet. Alonso, 25, is entering his sophomore season as the Mets'  most feared hitter, and should be even more dangerous with Yoenis Cespedes returning to the lineup. Judge's Yankees won 103 games last year and are favored to reach the World Series this year. The Mets won 86 games last year and should contend for a playoff spot this year. 

If chicks dig the long ball, then kids adore it. Yours truly became a Yankees fan as a 7-year-old from watching Reggie Jackson hit three homers on three pitches from three pitchers in the 1977 World Series. Kids are about the launched balls before they follow the laundry. We gobbled up baseball cards to get our stars and All-Stars to arrange and trade, to marvel at and memorize the back of each card. 

There's much to munch on this MLB season, led by the Big Apple's two teams and their two singular sluggers. How Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso play could sway a city of future fans. If the recent past is prologue, then Big Apple baseball is set for years to come. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel.