"Polar Bear" was one of the Mets that led the offensive charge against the Nationals on Saturday afternoon. You know him as Pete Alonso.
Noah Syndergaard, who started for the Mets in the 11-8 win, dished out some nicknames on the roster during his postgame interview, and they all had an animal theme. It was third base coach Gary DiSarcina that gave Alonso his nickname, and it couldn't fit any better. Polar bears possess raw power, something Alonso has been displaying since Spring Training.
"I guess so, yeah. I'll embrace it," Alonso said of his nickname.
After getting the Opening Day jitters and his first Major League hit out of the way, Alonso showcased that raw power with two RBI doubles in a 3-for-4 performance. The first came in the top of the second when Nationals CF Victor Robles just turned around and sprinted to the center field fence where the ball landed, knowing he didn't have a chance to make a play on it. Alonso, then, went to right field and almost broke the digital scoreboard fence in the top of the eighth.
These are the types of games the Mets expect from Alonso this season, and why many believe he is a top candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. But for the neophyte first baseman, he is just having fun soaking in his first experience in the MLB.
"This is the most fun I've ever had playing baseball," Alonso said. "I feel blessed and I'm living the dream right now. I'm just having a blast out there."
Now it wasn't just "Polar Bear" that made an impact in the Mets' 14-hit game. "Squirrel" had an even better game.
Jeff McNeil is certainly embracing his nickname as he has "flying squirrel" stitched into one of his gloves, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. And after a tough 0-for-3 Opening Day, he exploded for a 4-for-5 day including an RBI triple and RBI double.
McNeil said the ball simply found the barrel today, and that seemed to be the case for other Mets including Michael Conforto (2-for-5, two runs scored), Wilson Ramos (2-for-4, two RBI, three runs scored), and even Dom Smith, who came in mid-game to go 1-for-2 with a two-RBI single. The Mets have been considered a poor hitting team in recent years, but McNeil thinks that stigma can be thrown out the window.
"I think what you saw today is kinda who we are," he said. "We're going to string together a lot of good at-bats. We're deep one through nine, I mean, our pitchers can hit a little bit too. I like how we played today, that's how we should play in the future."
Nicknames and all, the team chemistry also seems to be there early on. Alonso made sure to tip his cap to McNeil.
"He had a great bounce-back day," Alonso said of McNeil. "He's an awesome hitter and he's really, really consistent. Sometimes baseball is kinda funny. Sometimes the best hitters go o-fer. He was a big part of today."
McNeil added: "Peter's great. He hits the ball hard, and when he gets hot, no one can really get him out. He hits the ball to all fields, so I'm really going to enjoy watching him all year."
Whether it's "Polar Bear," "Squirrel," or "Buffalo" (Ramos) supplying the offense, the Mets know they are equipped with the bats to make days like today a regular occurence. It's only Game 2, but players like Alonso and McNeil are already making a statement.
Watch out for the stampede.