ATLANTA — After this Mets’ season is over, Pete Alonso will briefly wear a different uniform.
The Mets’ first baseman will suit up for Team USA at the 2023 World Baseball Classic in March. The tournament, which has been dormant since 2017, pits the United States against the world’s other baseball powerhouses in one of the most unique baseball atmospheres on the planet.
“I’m really excited,” Alonso said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of really amazing guys on the team so far. Again, it’s a great opportunity. I just feel lucky to be a part of it.”
Along with Alonso, several other All-Stars are expected to rock the red, white and blue. While nothing is official yet, and things could still change before the tournament actually begins, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Story are also expected to be on the team. Trout will serve as team captain, though Alonso said it was the larger Team USA governing body that reached out to him about playing, not Trout himself.
“It kind of started to slowly develop right after the All-Star break,” Alonso said of the recruiting process. “It was a short period of conversation. Just like, ‘Hey, do you want to do it?’ The team OK’d it, and now it’s news.”
Alonso was asked if he will now pivot to recruitment mode. Don’t expect Alonso to be chatting with other players at first base about the WBC quite yet.
“They haven’t really asked me to do that,” he said. “They just told me recently that I’m on the team. So I’m just more excited right now. But maybe if they need help, or they want me to convince guys, I’d be willing to do them a favor.”
The last World Baseball Classic was in 2017. What used to be a fairly regular event — the first one was in 2006, with others following in 2009, 2013 and 2017 — was put on hold by the pandemic. A 2021 tournament was all ready to go before COVID-19 showed up, and now the one-of-a-kind event is ready to return.
“It looked like an incredible environment,” said Alonso, who was gearing up for a season at High-A the last time a World Baseball Classic happened. “It’s an incredibly fun event, I’ve always wanted to play in it. It’s an honor to play for the stars and stripes. I’m really appreciative of it.”
The United States is the defending champions, beating Francisco Lindor’s Puerto Rican team for the title in 2017. Japan won the first two, and a Robinson Cano-led Dominican Republic side won it all in 2013. With the tournament taking place in March — the Team USA is part of Pool C, whose group stage begins on March 11 — that does mean that the beginning of Alonso’s 2023 season will be a little different than usual. On Wednesday, he downplayed the strangeness of reporting to Mets’ spring training, leaving for an exhibition tournament, then returning.
“I’m going to be playing spring training games just the same, so it’s really no different.”
The United States’ first games will be at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They are pitted against Canada, Mexico, Colombia and one of the teams that will emerge from an upcoming qualifying tournament.
Among U.S.-born baseball players, first base is maybe the most stacked position. Goldschmidt, a four-time Gold Glove winner, will likely get most of the defensive reps there. While it’s still possible that other first basemen like Matt Olson, Josh Bell, Rhys Hoskins or Ty France get added to the squad, the limited defensive abilities of first basemen make that slightly unlikely. Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers’ California-born first baseman, played for Team Canada during the last World Baseball Classic to honor his late mother. Freeman recently said that he’d be “100% in” if Canada wants him again in 2023.
Even if Alonso is relegated to a DH or bench role, he still takes pride in being part of the team, knowing that there is so much talent at his position.
“It’s really special,” he said “I just feel really honored. We have a great talent pool of baseball players in the United States. I’m really lucky and blessed to be part of the team.”