It’s tough enough to make it to the big leagues — but when an MVP blocks your way, the road to the majors is even tougher. Since the day the Reds drafted Yonder Alonso out of the University of Miami in 2008, he was seen as a trade candidate or possibly even an insurance policy if Joey Votto left via free agency.
That’s why when the Reds traded Alonso in the five-player deal that brought Mat Latos to Cincinnati, it wasn’t much of a shock to anyone, Alonso included. Alonso recently returned to Great American Ball Park wearing a different uniform in the park for the first time. Alonso finished the four-game series with six hits — half of them doubles — including four in the Padres’ lone win in the series. CityBeat caught up with the former Red about his new home, his old home and his time with the Reds.
CityBeat: What was it like coming into this park in a different uniform?
Yonder Alonso: It’s obviously a lot different. I kind of grew up here, from being drafted to coming up with the Reds. It was a fun time. It was a period where I learned the game from a professional level. They taught me the way and how to do it. I’ll always thank them for that.
CB: What was it like when you got the call that you were traded? You couldn’t have been too surprised.
YA: I wasn’t surprised. I feel like everyone knew where I was at, they knew my value, they knew what I was hopefully going to become. They got a great pitcher, someone who is doing well. It was just a crazy day. It worked out for both teams.
CB: Was it tough coming up here knowing who was in front of you?
YA: I think it was to a point, but it made me that much of a stronger player. It made me more mentally strong, because you compete with a guy like that and if you’re competing with a guy like that — an All-Star, an MVP — you’re going to be that much of a better player.
[Votto] is a guy that welcomes competition — he really tried to teach me the way. He understands where he stands — and I understand that, too. Even now we talk, we talk about baseball and different things. It’s awesome. He’s much older than me, much wiser, much more mature than I am. He watches and tells me what I’m doing well and what I need to do. He’s a guy that I look on for help sometimes, and that’s helped so far.
CB: Votto also sets a pretty good example of how to work, how to be a pro, right?
YA: His work ethic is the best I’ve ever seen. He’s a guy that will definitely make sure he’s going to be ready for the game. He’ll be ready to compete.
CB: Do you still watch the Reds?
YA: I keep tabs on all the guys on the Reds, even the guys in the minor leagues. I text those guys here and there. My relationship’s not going to change. They’re human beings, not robots. They’re friends of mine.
CB: What’s the reception been like for you here? I’ve heard plenty of cheers for you from the crowd.
YA: Yeah, I didn’t know if I would get any reception at all — I thought I wasn’t here long enough for people to remember me, but it’s been good. I know on the on-deck circle the fans have been messing with me a little bit, but all in good fun. It’s been fun.
Thinking Out Loud
The Reds’ recent 22-3 run was nothing short of phenomenal, but considering the bulk of it was without their best player in Votto and then a couple of games without Brandon Phillips, that makes it even more unbelievable. The 22 wins in 25 games from July 6 to Aug. 4 was just the second time in franchise history the team won that many games in a 25-game stretch. The Big Red Machine never did it, nor did any of the other World Series teams. The only other Reds team to win 22 in 25 games was the 1890 squad. ... The Pirates took exception to Aroldis Chapman hitting NL MVP front-runner Andrew McCutchen in the first game of the three-game series at Great American Ball Park. The Pirates didn’t retaliate, but don’t be surprised if Votto gets plunked the next time two teams meet. There are only six games left between the two — Sept. 10-12 at GABP and Sept. 27-30 in Pittsburgh. ... After the Reds’ series victory over the Pirates, the team had a 96 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus. No team has an easier remaining schedule than the Reds, according to the winning percentage of their remaining opponents. Because of their soft early schedule, the Cardinals have a more difficult remaining schedule. ... In the first depth chart released by the Bengals, right guard Kevin Zietler is the only rookie listed as a starter. ... The hometown training camp seems to be a winner at Paul Brown Stadium. Several days have been at capacity for fans — something that hasn’t been the case in recent years in Georgetown, Ky.