Designated Hitter: Catching up with former Pittsfield Met Edgardo Alfonzo
What do you remember when you first arrived in Pittsfield?
"The weather," he said with a laugh. "It was kind of like cold, not that cold, but it was my first time in the colder weather."
Being born in Santa Teresa del Tuy, Venezuela, and having never playing north of Florida will do that to you.
Alfonzo might be the only player who played at Wahconah Park who didn't mention sun delays first.
Alfonzo played for the 1992 Pittsfield Mets, a team that went 37-37 under manager Jim Thrift. Alfonzo was the team's non-pitching star.
The former infielder, who spent a dozen years in the major leagues — most of them with the New York Mets — is now a manager in the Mets' minor league system. He was across the mountain in Troy, N.Y., as his Brooklyn Cyclones played the Tri-City ValleyCats.
I covered the Mets from 1991 until the team's affiliation changed after the 2000 season, and saw a lot of very good players wearing the blue and orange. But if there was a Mount Rushmore of Pittsfield Mets, he would be on my mountain. Alfonzo, Jay Payton, Jason Isringhausen and A.J. Burnett would have their faces on the hill.
Alfonzo played on a Pittsfield team that included former big league players Brian Daubach, Bill Pulsipher and Guillermo Garcia.
Alfonzo spent his first year with the Mets playing in Florida in the rookie leagues. Those games aren't played in front of anyone. He started 1992 in the Class A Florida State League until the NY-Penn League opened up in June. The crowds in Florida were pretty sparse, but when he played his first game in Pittsfield, there were almost 1,900 fans in Wahconah Park.
"I get to the ballpark and I played in front of fans," he said.
In Pittsfield, Alfonzo hit .346 and led the team with 44 runs batted in. He had a 13-game hitting streak from July 28-Aug. 9, and was a New York-Penn League All-Star. He won the batting title and came up two hits shy of a single-season record for hits. He had 105.
"I told them when I played in this league it was in Pittsfield. Now it's in Brooklyn, which is like the Major Leagues compared to Pittsfield," he said. "I really had a great experience in Pittsfield when I played there."
Opening night in 1992 was on June 15 when the Mets hosted the Oneonta Yankees. Playing in front of 1,837 fans, Alfonzo went 1 for 4 with a run scored as the Mets beat the Yankees 7-4.
"On my first night, I was kind of nervous at the beginning," Alfonzo said, while sitting in the visiting manager's office at Joe Bruno Stadium. "As the game went along, the nerves went away.
"It was good to see fans. They can support you, watch you play. It's motivation for players."
Now, Alfonzo is a manager and he's enjoying his first year in the job.
"When you're winning, everything is fun. When you're losing it's not much fun. But I'm happy," he said. "I feel good because it's like I tell the guys that I remember my first start in this league, that it doesn't matter how much talent you have, if you don't know how to play the game, you're going to have a hard time.
"Our job and responsibility is to show you and teach you guys how to play the game, because I was there once. I know what it takes to get out of a slump or don't make an error."
So does Edgardo Alfonzo have aspirations of sitting in the manager's office at Citi Field, or some other Major League stadium?
"I don't know. To me, it's too far," he said. "This is my first time as a manager. Ask me that question in three or four years.
"Right now, if it's up to me, I'd say no, I don't think so. But who knows?"
Reach sports columnist Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.
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