Cyclones coach Edgardo Alfonzo spent parts of twelve seasons as a major league infielder from 1995-2006, including eight years with the New York Mets. He boasts a .284 lifetime average and compiled 1,532 hits in 1,506 games--over a thousand of which were played in a Mets uniform. He can be easily found these days working with young players during batting practice and manning the third base coach’s box in Brooklyn. We caught up with the man affectionately known as ‘Fonzie’ for a Q & A about this year’s Cyclones squad and life coaching on Coney Island.
Q: After playing for so many years, how have you adjusted to being a coach?
A: It’s different. The way you see stuff is different. Now you have to try to be more patient with guys…teach them what you learned all those years playing baseball. The point of view is not the same.
Q: What are some of the other things you tell young guys, whether it’s physical or mental, to advance themselves as ballplayers?
A: It’s everything. When you get a new guy, a rookie guy…you’re pretty much working on the mental skill and how to use your talent to play the game. And that particular thing is hard but it’s not impossible, you know, but I really enjoy doing it. I try to tell ‘em every day…when you play many years in the big leagues it’s because of something. And if I can teach a way to maintain and to be successful, I try to do it. That’s why I work so hard with those guys, mentally especially. Because the talent is there, you know, they have to believe they can play this game.
Q: As a former major leaguer, what do you say to younger players that want to pick your brain and learn as much as they possibly can knowing that you have been there before?
A: Try to keep positive every day, day in and day out. Sometimes it’s hard because they get frustrated so easy and that’s the part where we have to step up and talk to them and calm them down. This game takes a lot of consistency. That is the name of the game and if you have consistency here it’s going to be great because you’re going to learn day in and day out about the game. I always tell the guys it doesn’t matter what happened today, tomorrow is another day. If you did something wrong today, try to correct it and do the right thing the next day.
Q: You’ve spent time as an instructor at big league camp with the Mets and guys like Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy. How different is it instructing players at this level as opposed to players closer to the major league level?
A: When you work with a guy who knows what he’s doing it’s easier, you know. Guys like [Wilmer] Flores, [Ruben] Tejada, [Daniel] Murphy…those guys have already gone through a lot. With rookie guys first signing, you just start all over again. The first thing is try to be patient, don’t try to be too quick.
Q: Brooklyn is 14-5, playing well and in first place. What do you like about what you’ve seen so far this season?
A: I like what I am seeing so far. The way I see the guys at home plate with a great approach and sometimes getting great at bats, that’s what counts. The pitching is doing a great job and we play together, we’re doing the little things to win.
Q: In baseball, much is made of individual numbers and statistics. But how important is chemistry and being a team player in baseball?
A: I tell the guys that sometimes you’ve got to sacrifice yourself to win the game. The individual stuff is great because you work on your numbers and stuff like that but what are you going to do when you’re going 5-for-5 and the team loses? I’d rather go 1-for-5 and contribute to the win and people look at that as a team player. I don’t like to be on a team where you find selfish guys…this is a team. This is nine guys plus the guys on the bench that want to play. So just try to do your best every day and you’re going to have great success.
Q: It’s July and we’re approaching the All-Star Game. When this time of year rolls around do you think about your experience as an All-Star?
A: Yeah every time. That’s one of my dreams coming true. In 2000, I won the Silver Slugger, I went to the All-Star Game and the World Series so that’s great as a player that’s one of the dreams you want to get. I told the guys that when you become an All-Star, at any level it doesn’t matter, it’s great because people recognize the work you’ve been putting in all year round. It’s not easy.
Q: Who was the toughest pitcher you ever faced in your career?
A: Everybody (laughs). You know the guy I hated facing the most? Tom Glavine. He didn’t throw very hard, that’s why and he always got me out with that change-up. I respect all the pitchers in the big leagues because they’re so great, so nasty…but the guy who always got me out was Tom Glavine.
The Cyclones return home Saturday evening to face the Aberdeen IronBirds as RHP Jose Celas takes the hill on Star Wars night at MCU Park, followed by our weekly post game fireworks show. Tickets start at just $10 and are still available by calling 718-507-TIXX, visiting the MSCU Park Box Office or right here at BrooklynCyclones.com.