Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press First baseman Yonder Alonso points to the A’s dugout after hitting a two-run home run against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. Alonso has already set a career-high for homers in a season with 19 in 74 games so far this season.
OAKLAND — It’s one of the longest flights anyone can make in the continuous 48 states. Yonder Alonso will board a plane after the A’s play in Seattle on Sunday and fly roughly six hours to his hometown of Miami to be a part of next week’s major league All-Star Game festivities.
It’s nothing compared to the journey he’s already been through.
“Very humbling, very excited for the opportunity and it’s going to be a full circle type of moment for me,” said Alonso, who was selected to the All-Star Game on Sunday. “Just blessed and humbled to have the opportunity.”
After a rocky first few seasons in the big leagues, Alonso is playing to the type of potential that made him the seventh overall draft pick in 2008 by the Cincinnati Reds.
Now in his second season with the A’s and in good health, Alonso leads Oakland with a .283 batting average and a .952 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Following a recent dip in offensive production, Alonso broke out with two home runs Tuesday in the A’s 7-6 win over the Chicago White Sox. He has 19 homers and 41 RBIs after 74 games going into this weekend’s series in Seattle against the Mariners.
“Anytime you make an all-star team, you should feel very good about it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The events around it, being in Miami make it that much more special for him. We’re all real excited for him.”
Alonso, 30, was 10 years old when he and his family, including younger sister Yainee, moved from Cuba to the United States.
He grew up in a household immersed in baseball. His father, Luis, was a catcher in the Cuban National Series and Alonso was a bat boy. As a teenager in the U.S., Alonso developed to the point where he could play for the University of Miami.
As was demonstrated last month when the A’s traveled to play at Marlins Park in a part of Little Havana, and as evidenced by an ever-growing request for tickets next week, Alonso’s still kind of a big deal in Miami.
“They’re all excited. They can’t wait to obviously be there and support me,” Alonso said of the friends and family he has in the area. “I’m wearing this uniform and will be a part of the festivities, not only for myself and the club, but for many other people in the city of Miami.”
Alonso’s big league career started off on a positive note, as he was sixth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012 when he was with the San Diego Padres.
Alonso was dealt by the Reds to the San Diego Padres in December 2011. In 2012, in his first full season in the majors, Alonso hit .273 with 62 RBIs in 155 games.
For the next three years, though, he was beset by injuries to his hand, forearm and back, and never came close to those numbers again in a Padres uniform. He was sent to the A’s in a deal that saw lefty Drew Pomeranz go to San Diego.
Alonso’s had a rebirth of sorts since he was acquired by the A’s in Dec. 2015. His offensive numbers weren’t eye-popping last season, with a modest slash line of .253/.316/.367. But he was close to flawless on defense with just four errors in 145 games and a positive presence in a clubhouse that had a handful of young players.
This year he had 12 home runs through 34 games, including seven in the A’s first eight games in May. His previous career-high for home runs in a season was nine in 2012.
“He’s had many all-star (type) performances this year,” Melvin said. “You know the history of him, where he came from, the struggles early on in his career and his life.
“Growing up in the area, there was a lot of hoopla about him when we were in Miami about the potential for him to make the (all-star) team. Then for him to finally make it was kind a full circle thing for him. So I know there’s a lot of pride involved in that.”
Alonso was grateful to even get a contract this past offseason from the A’s considering his modest offensive production in 2016.
He signed a one-year, $4 million deal in December and told Bay Area News Group at the time, “There were many things being in a new league I had to learn, and I think you saw in the second half I improved. I think my upside is a lot higher than many people think it is. I’m just 29, and I think I have the ability to help in the clubhouse and on the field.
“This contract means the world to me. I’m happy the organization believes in me.”
Wednesday at the Coliseum, Alonso was presented with his American League all-star jersey.
“It is special, and it is kind of prelude to putting on the jersey for the game. So, we’ve got four more games in Seattle and he’ll be on his way back home,” Melvin said. “… When you’ve been to those things before, it’s exciting when you go and you’re exhausted when it’s over.
“So there’s going to be a lot going on for him, especially with family and everything there. But the pride factor being at home, I don’t know if anyone would value it more than he does.”