CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Yonder Alonso got a taste of the big leagues in 2010 with the Cincinnati Reds.
Now, the former first-rounder draft pick is working hard in the off-season to assure he lands a full-time role in 2011.
Alonso, a Coral Gables High School product who starred at Miami from 2006-08, has been working out this off-season at Alex Rodriguez Park, home of the Hurricanes.
“This is my life,” Alonso told InsideTheU. “When I say it, I really mean it. Like Dwyane Wade says, ’this is my house’, this is where I’m welcome and everything is good. They welcome me with open arms here and hopefully I can have batting cages named after me or something so we’ll see.”
Alonso has been working out with New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez in Miami, something the two did when Alonso was at UM.
“We still work out here every day,” Alonso said. “Actually, Jorge Posada is with us now too. It’s been really good. Obviously, I have learned a lot. Brett Gardner has came in and worked out as well and helped me in left field. Melky Cabrera is helping me out there too.”
In regards to what Alonso what’s to work on specifically this off-season, he feels he needs to get better in all areas of the game.
“I think I’ve got to work on everything,” Alonso said. “People ask me that and I think I have to re-tune everything and make sure I polish everything up--my hitting, defense, running, fielding, workout routine, outfield--everything has to get better. The sky is the limit and I strongly believe that so I have to get better.”
Alonso played three seasons at UM as a first baseman and was drafted by the Reds at that position. However, Joey Votto, the NL MVP in 2010, currently plays first base for the Reds. Votto, 27, recently signed a three-year extension, which forced Alonso to left field, a position he is continuing to improve on.
“It was good,” said Alonso of the transition to the outfield. “I think it got a little bit better in the big leagues just because I got more help especially from Billy Hatcher and the guys that have been there for years and years. It got better and hopefully I can carry it on for next year.”
Last season, Alonso hit .290 with 15 home runs, 36 doubles, 13 stolen bases, and 69 RBIs in 132 minor leagues splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A.
He was a September 1 call-up to the Reds and played sparingly in 22 games where he hit .207 with three RBIs in 29 at-bats primarily as a pinch-hitter.
“It’s been good. It was a jump,” Alonso said. “Two years ago I was here (at UM) and now I am in the big leagues. Twenty-three years old and in the big leagues. There are not too many 23- year olds are doing it. It was a goal of mine and it was a lot of fun. It was everything I dreamed and hoped for. Hopefully now I can get there and stay there for a while.”
His MLB debut came on Sept. 1 in Cincinnati against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“My first game was a blur,” Alonso recalled. “It was crazy. I hadn’t slept in probably a day or two because I didn’t know if I was going to get called or not. It happened and I went straight to Cincinnati. I really didn’t think I was going to play up. The game was like 5-2 and we were up and they said, ‘hey, grab a bat, you’re going in’. I had to face this lefty guy (Zach Braddock) throwing 95-97, it was fun, it was nice. I didn’t care who was pitching, I was going to swing really hard to matter what.”
His first hit came in St. Louis with former teammate Jon Jay in the outfield for the Cardinals.
“He saw my first hit,” Alonso said. “It was actually in St. Louis. My first hit was a double and it was on FOX, it was pretty crazy because they were talking about me and Jay. The double was down the line, but I was looking at him. We were in the hunt, we were one game up, and I get a double, I’m looking at him, he’s looking at me and we were in a big league game. It was pretty cool.”
Alonso said that he enjoyed the match-ups with a couple of the National League’s best pitchers--Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Carpenter--striking out in each appearance against them.
The Reds were one of the biggest surprises in baseball last year winning the NL Central for the first time since 1995.
“We had a great year,” Alonso said. “We knew we were going to be good from spring training, but just nobody knew us. Obviously now we are on the map. The NL Central is big so it’s going to be a battle.”
The fans in Cincinnati have been very supportive of the team.
“The fans are great,” Alonso said. “Midwest people are so nice, so friendly. They are big-time fans.”Alonso on the Hurricanes
While at UM, Alonso was one of the best Hurricanes ever. He ranks third on the all-time home run list with 52 homers. His 215 RBIs ranks third and his 172 walks ranks fourth and was a career .347 hitter. His 24 home runs in 2008 was one short of the school record.
He helped lead the team to the College World Series twice in his three-year career.
“The Miami coaches get you ready for life, they get you ready for the big leagues,” Alonso said. “Everything that is in the big leagues from the little time that I was there was very similar to this. It was all about winning, make sure you get your work in, make sure you respect everyone around you, and carry yourself as a professional and that’s how we did things here.”
Alonso has been around the current Hurricanes and likes their chance in 2011.
“I think they are good,” Alonso said. “They are young and I think it is going to help them. I think they are going to be good with their pitching especially with these new bats, they’re going to be good on defense too. I think that is going to be the main key where maybe three or four years ago, it wasn’t the main factor was that you’ve got to out-hit the other team. Now it is about pitching and defense. It’s going to be fun. Games are going to be quicker.”