Mets utilityman Joe McEwing discusses the club's chemistry and confident attitude, and how it…
The Third Alfonzo
Alfonzo's older brother, Edgar, a well respected hitting coach in the Mets organization, and the person Edgardo went to during his slumps with the Mets, also has a great history with the Mets. Edgar was the manager for the inaugural season of the Brooklyn Cyclones leading the Cyclones to the 2001 NY-Penn League Co-Championship, after the deciding game of the three game series was called off due to the September 11th attacks. In 2002 he was the hitting coach for St. Lucie (A) and last year was the hitting coach for the Binghamton Mets (AA). This season the elder Alfonzo is the Mets' Minor League Infield Coordinator.
Alfonzo's other uncle, Robert, is an international scout for the Mets.
The Mets signed Alfonzo out of Venezuela in the summer of 2002, and subsequently sent him to Kingsport, the rookie league affiliate of the New York Mets in Tennessee.
You would naturally think Alfonzo would feel some pressure due do his roots and family history with the Mets, however the fun loving, smiling all the time Edgar, is just doing the best that he can, in what he loves to do, and that is play baseball.
"My uncle was a very good player with the Mets, and my father is now a coach. Now I am here to, but all I am concerned about is doing the best I can do, and have fun doing that." said Edgar.
So why is this Alfonzo a pitcher, and not a smooth fielding, clutch hitting infielder like his uncle was? Somewhere along the family genes you would think something went wrong with this Alfonzo, not to carry out the family custom, and that was explained on December 14, 1984, the day Alfonzo was born. So why is this Alfonzo a pitcher unlike his uncle Edgardo, and his father Edgar?
"Oh that is a big difference" said Alfonzo breaking a laugh. "I am a lefty, and they are right handed. So they told me it would be better for me if I were a pitcher."
Alfonzo, who did try hitting early in his amateur career, just found himself back on the mound, and performing well. Knowing the quickest way for him to make the majors was to use his left hand, and with major league teams constantly looking for left-hand arms to pitch for them, Alfonzo gave up hitting, and concentrated on his pitching.
"I did try hitting, but I was a better pitcher, and decided to stay with pitching" said Alfonzo, who is not yet fluent in the English language, and just like his pitching, he is learning with each passing day.
Alfonzo 19, spent 2002 and 2003 at Kingsport, however did not pitch much. In 2002 Alfonzo threw just eight innings, and ten innings in 2003.
"Last year I was injured, and got inflammation on my elbow" Alfonzo said. "The first year I signed late, and reported August 22, so that is why I did not pitch a lot in Kingsport."
Alfonzo was actually scheduled to begin this season at Kingsport however plans changed.
He started the season with Brooklyn, however that only occurred because the Mets needed pitchers for Brooklyn to begin the year, and since the Kingsport season was not scheduled to begin until three days later, Alfonzo joined the Cyclones. Manager Tony Tijerina then fought hard to keep Alfonzo on the roster, in which he succeeded. So was Tijerina impressed with something in Alfonzo?
"I had seen him previously, and was impressed with him" said Tijerina. "I saw him pitch in Venezuela, and down at extended [spring training]. I liked his confidence, and the question was could be handle this crowd, and the intensity here, and with his confidence the answer is clearly yes."
At this stage of his career Alfonzo credits his father as being the biggest influence in his life.
"He keeps on telling me I am good, however I have to continue working harder" Alfonzo said. "Play hard, and do the best of what you can do, and that will make you succeed" are the words from the elder Alfonzo to his son.
The problem with Alfonzo early this season has been controlling his emotions, and getting himself under control more when pitching.
"He has came in to pitch during innings with runners on base, and he gives up the home run, and then he settles down, and pitches fine" said manager Tony Tijerina, referring to the two games in which Alfonzo has come in with runners on base, and given up a home run. The first of those games came on opening day, with the second game coming Monday night. "There is some sort of pattern their, and we have to look into that. Do we make sure that he starts fresh innings, do we use him as a situational lefty out of the pen, or does he need to go back to Kingsport? We will be evaluating that over the next few days and making a decision" said Tijerina.
Alfonzo, who is nineteen years old, is the youngest pitcher on this Cyclones staff. Everyday for Alfonzo is a learning day, and let's keep in mind that this nineteen year old has thrown just twenty six innings as a professional. Alfonzo, and pitching coach Hector Berrios have a great relationship, with Alfonzo always willing to improve and learn more.
"He just keeps working on my mechanics, and helps me with way's I can make my pitches better" say's Alfonzo.
"We are working on a two seam fastball that sinks away from right handed hitters to go along with his change-up" said Berrios. "We are also working on him staying over the rubber a little longer, and being able for him to break his hands over the rubber were his arm is catching up. and being able to get good downhill cut on his pitches" Berrios said.
At 5'11 and 165 pounds, Alfonzo is not your prototypical pitcher. He does not have the big body that many scouts like pitchers to possess, however neither Alfonzo nor Berrios see that as a problem.
"I don't think about that" say's Alfonzo. "All I think about is getting the pitchers out, and no matter how tall or big a pitcher is you still have to get the hitters out, and if I can get the hitters out it does not matter that I am not really big."
Berrios agrees with Alfonzo, however gives his reasoning a more scientific angle.
"Definitely everybody wants big pitchers because they create a better downhill angle" Berrios said. "However, he [Alfonzo] is a kid who does have good downhill angle when he gets on top of his pitches, so as long as he can stay on top of his pitches and gives hitters downward motion as the ball arrives at the plate in the hitting zone, I think he will be fine."
The family baseball tree might not stop with Edgar. He has two younger brothers, age twelve, and four, and both of them play baseball. Leeandro, the twelve year old plays second base, just like his uncle Edgardo did for the Mets for so many years.
Notes: Cyclones management will spend the next several days' cutting down their roster to meet league requirements. Jim Burt put on his Cyclone uniform for the first time Monday and worked out with the team during pre-game warm-ups. Burt is expected to be in the lineup by the end of this week.
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