CINCINNATI -- Yonder Alonso took his first gazes at Great American Ball Park on Friday, and it didn't take long for the Reds' first-round Draft pick to get the itch. "I could picture myself here right now playing against Milwaukee, if that tells you anything," Alonso said. "I'm very wowed by this." Other than a possible batting practice session Saturday, Alonso was just visiting his future home field. There will be a lot of baseball to play this fall.
The 22-year-old first baseman is scheduled to spend 11 days at the organization's instructional league in Sarasota, Fla., and plans to play in the Hawaiian fall league and possibly winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Drafted seventh overall out of the University of Miami in June, prolonged contract negotiations kept Alonso largely idle until he signed a five-year, $4.55 million contract 15 minutes before an Aug. 15 deadline. There was just enough season left for Alonso to play six games at Class A Sarasota. He batted .316 (6-for-19) with one double and two RBIs. "It was great," said Alonso, who was accompanied by his parents and sister. "It was a little bit nerve racking. Probably the first two or three games, I felt like I wasn't myself, but baseball is baseball. I loved it. I was very comfortable. I love this organization and I'm very happy." There was some rust from the prolonged inactivity, but not enough to derail his confidence. "It showed the first two games, but I prepared myself so well that I felt like it didn't hurt me that much," Alonso said. "I felt great. The guys helped me out a lot." Alonso said he played both first base and third base at Sarasota, and he can also play the outfield. The Reds currently have a young first baseman in Joey Votto. Alonso was open to switching, if asked. "Whatever they want me to do, I'll do," said Alonso, who batted .370 with 24 home runs and 72 RBIs during his junior season at Miami. Exactly when Alonso will make his big league debut remains unknown, but he is already on the Reds' 40-man roster because he signed a Major League contract. That means he'll also be in big league camp at Spring Training next year. Getting that kind of deal puts the crosshairs on Alonso before he even plays one Major League game. The expectations will be high, and he won't have to earn his financial security like other prospects. He believed the money wouldn't change his approach to the game. "I'm the same person I was without anything," Alonso said. "Somebody asked me that the other day, 'How did I feel?' I told them, 'How much money do you have in your wallet right now? It feels the exact same way.' I don't feel any pressure. If anything, I just want to go out there and play the game. I'm a baseball player, not a businessman. I just play baseball, and this is what I do."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.