Pete Alonso is having a historic rookie season with the Mets this year, hitting .265/.341/.625 with 19 home runs and 43 RBI.
For the Mets' scouting department, this was a long time in the making.
Alonso, who was drafted in the second round of the MLB Amateur Draft three years ago with the 64th overall pick in the draft, had been on the Mets' radar since the slugger was in high school.
Tim Britton of The Athletic recently detailed that journey in an oral history, which began before the start of Alonso's freshman year at Florida when Mets scout Les Parker, who discovered Jacob deGrom, was the first pro scout to introduce himself to Alonso and his father, also named Peter.
"He came up to me and introduced himself and goes, 'I don't know whether you know this or not: What your son is doing right now is really special,'" the elder Alonso said.
The Mets had liked Alonso in high school but felt he needed refinement at the college level. The power was there, but there were concerns over his defense (originally playing third base, but would later switch to first).
"You didn't know if he could play the outfield or play first," Parker said. "It was a situation where you thought this kid should probably go to school and then see what you have. ... If I saw the same player today, I'd feel the same way."
Alonso planned to go to Florida, even if he were drafted, but not being drafted at all still stung for the slugger.
"It's still nice to be picked, even if it's just, 'Hey, there might be a chance if we have money left over,'" Alonso said. "But I wasn't picked at all. So it was, 'All right, now I've just got to be a guy. Be the best player I can possibly be.'"
Alonso had an up-and-down start to his collegiate career and battled injuries his sophomore season. He struggled in the Cape League, where scouts are making their 2016 evaluations, the summer before his junior year. According to Tommy Tonous, who was then the Mets' scouting director and now vice president of international and amateur scouting, the issue for the Mets was whether or not they could justify drafting a right-handed hitting first baseman.
"There's just so much pressure on those guys to hit. You have to be a monster," he said. "A .260 hitter with 15 home runs is a good big-league player - but not if he's your first baseman."
Alonso was a monster, though. Florida area scout Jon Updike said that the home runs Alonso hit reminded him of watching Bo Jackson.
"I will never forget the sound and the violence and the way that ball flew out of the ballpark," Updike said of Jackson. "Pete brings that. He'll hit some balls that make you gasp. ...When they start hitting objects - when they hit a building or a water tower, across the street and off the reservation - those are the things that stick with you. Power is what draws people to the ballpark. And it's not the wallscrapers. It would be shocking power at times."
Alonso was finally able to put it all together his junior season, showing an advanced approach -- hitting for average and a 12 percent strikeout rate -- combined with a will to win.
The latter was evident when he was hit by a pitch and broke his hand in May, causing him to miss the end of the regular season and SEC Tournament, but decided to play through it in the College World Series.
In his first at-bat back, he hit a home run. Then he did it again two at-bats later. He hit three home runs in the College World Series, the shortest traveled 421 feet.
"What he did, in the regionals, he just caught fire toward the end of the year and really springboarded it," Updike said. "It solidifies what you already know and what you already have on the kid."
The Mets had drafted Boston College pitcher Justin Dunn 19th overall and UConn southpaw Anthony Kay 31st with Alonso next on their board, hoping he would still be there at the 64th pick.
When he was, it was a no-brainer. Mets legend John Franco announced the pick as Alonso watched on TV with his family in Tampa.
"I cried," Alonso said. "It's a dream come true to have the opportunity to play professional baseball. That's the birth of a new career. Now it becomes real. Now you can officially put it on a résumé."