Former University of Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso returned to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field for the annual alumni game before the season started in February.
Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, he made his Major League debut on Sept. 1, 2010 and hit .207 in 29 plate appearances with no home runs and three RBIs.
With National League MVP Joey Votto locked in at first base, Alonso moved to left field and remained on the roster for the Reds’ surprise playoff run last fall.
The Miami Hurricane caught up with one of Miami’s all-time great hitters as he came out of the batting cages to talk spring training, being an alumnus and MLB playoffs.
TMH: What’s your mentality going into this spring training with the Cincinnati Reds?
YA: I think it’s a little better and easier because it’s my third spring training with the team. I just feel like it’s going ot be a lot of more fun coming in right now. It’s going to be interesting because I’m going to be competing for a job.
TMH: What’s it like coming back as an alumnus for this game?
YA: Every year is weird. I just feel a little older. It’s fun to come out here and play and get a pregame for my season.
TMH: What were the chances that [former UM teammate] Yasmani Grandal would end up where you were?
YA: With me? Oh man, it’s crazy! I didn’t think it was going to happen, but it did and now he’s going to be with me and I’m going to teach him a little bit of the stuff during spring training, but I’m sure he’ll be alright. He’s a good teammate and player.
TMH: What was that MLB playoff experience like in your first year?
YA: It was crazy. It was surreal just traveling with the team and playing and facing big-name guys that you’ve seen your whole life.
TMH: Who do you have winning this home run derby?
YA: Other than muself, I’m going to have to go with Yasmani. I’m not that type of guy to hit home runs. I’m more of a gap-to-gap guy. He’s more of a home run guy. I’m more the ‘get on-base guy.’
TMH: What do you think of the current Hurricane team?
YA: I think they’re going to be good. They’re young. I think it’s going to be a different team because of the bats. It’s going to be a fast running team. They’re going to play a lot of small ball and they’ve got pitching.
TMH: Anybody we should watch out for?
YA: Harold [Martinez] is going to be good. Their shortstop [Stephen Perez] is going to be good and I really like the center fielder, Nathan [Melendres]. I think [Jim] Morris and J.D. [Arteaga] always get them ready. [Joe] Mercadante. They’re always going to be good.
TMH: Why do so many local guys come to play at UM?
YA: What do you think it is? Well, look at it. It’s Miami. It’s home for a lot of guys and there’s so much tradition winning. It’s one of the top programs in the country and you just grow up watching these games just like they watched my years and all that. It’s home for us.
TMH: Were you one of those kids?
YA: I pretty much jumped over the fence a lot and tried to hit here by myself. I was one of those kids.
TMH: How are workouts with A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez] going?
YA: It’s going well. We just got done already. He’s leaving soon and I’m leaving soon.
TMH: What do you miss most about Miami while you’re in Arizona [for spring training] and Cincinnati?
YA: Everything. From traffic to everything because you don’t see it. Just the rush. Everyone here is in a rush. In Arizona everyone is laid back. The best thing is the fans in Cincinnati. Everywhere in the NL Central the fans are good. The Cards, the Cubs, Milwaukee.
TMH: Former Cane Ryan Braun…
YA: I see Braun and he texts me, ‘Get ready. I’m coming.