Alonso taking his spring training seriously

By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Saturday, February 28, 2009

FORT MYERS, FLA. — If you don't like Yonder Alonso, you don't like M&Ms. Or Oreos.

As the No. 1 draft choice last June by the Cincinnati Reds, a kid with a major-league contract, he could be a heavy ego load.

Far from it.

At dawn's early light, before the sun peeks over Ed Smith Stadium, Alonso walks into the clubhouse, usually around 6:30, the first player there, every morning.

"I want them to know how serious I am, how much I want to be part of this," said Alonso.

Then he slips into his uniform and heads for a back field for extra infield practice or batting practice.

Instead of swaggering around as if he owns the place, Alonso watches and learns and asks — especially Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

"They've been through this spring training process a few times and it isn't their first rodeo," he said.

Alonso knows he is destined for the minor-league camp when cuts begin, but he savors every moment of dressing with and playing with the big boys.

"This is huge, man, and any kid dreams of doing something like this. Coming from where I come from (Havana, Cuba), not too many get this chance. Every day I soak it up and every day I thank God for being here."

His first game action was a nightmare — an error at first base that led to five runs and 0 for 2 at the plate with a strikeout.

Alonso laughs about it and says, "It is crazy to say, but almost all my first games are shoddy."

In high school he struck out three times in his first game. In college at Miami he came up three times with the bases loaded and all three times hit checked-swing grounders.

"They were booing me, but it all came out pretty good at the end," he said.

He was feeling low after his error this week, but his spirits lifted when manager Dusty Baker called him aside to tell him about his first exhibition game — a throwing error from left field that crashed 50 feet up on the backstop.

"I was done, really sad, but when he told me that I was relieved," said Alonso. "That really pumped me up."

Said Baker, 'I know how bad this kid wants it. And he'll get it."