By David Russell
Bayside baseball coach Pat Torney initially did not know who or what he had in Daniel Alfonzo.
As a freshman, the third baseman told Torney that his father would be willing to help on the coaching staff. The coach thanked him, saying that he appreciated the offer, but had his staff set. Torney jokes that if he had known then that the father was former Mets second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, there’s a better chance that he would have said yes.
However, just having Daniel Alfonzo around has been more than good enough.
He is now a sophomore tearing up the PSAL. The Commodores finished the regular season at 12-4 after a 14-2 home thumping of Franklin K. Lane last week. Alfonzo went three-for-three in that game, with a home run, a double and five RBI. He’s now hitting over .479 with eight homers, as little improvements are paying big dividends.
“He got into better shape physically, which was a plus,” Torney said. “I think his defense has improved, too. He could always hit the ball. He’s been hitting the ball further and we’ve had things happen this year that have never happened before.”
A new ground rule had to be put in after Alfonzo hit a ball in a non-league game that made it into the grandstand – more that 300 feet away – on one bounce and was ruled a home run.
There hasn’t been a problem with Alfonzo getting advice from two different voices. His dad and his coach are very much on the same page.
“It’s just basically the same,” Daniel said. “My dad, he’s a little bit more advanced. But basically both have the same philosophy.”
Edgardo Alfonzo is not the stereotypical overbearing parent. He comes to Bayside games whenever he is in town and has been to at least half of them, according to Torney.
Edgardo doesn’t add any extra pressure to his son or try to be too hands on. “He just observes and helps when he can, but never oversteps his bounds, so it’s a really good relationship for everyone involved,” Torney said.
Daniel has been adept at making adjustments at the plate. He has improved his ability to hit the inside pitch, staying down on the ball and hitting more line drives. This has led him to a .609 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of 1.208, with five doubles, three triples, and 23 RBI in 17 games this season. His fielding has also improved. Since he has gotten in better shape, he has become more agile and is able to cover more ground.
“Torney has been pushing me,” Daniel said. “My goals: run faster, more stamina. And he’s been helping me achieve those goals. He keeps reminding me of the same thing my dad tells me. Stay in, see the ball, hit the ball, opposite field. My coach has been reminding me, and that’s good for me.”
Playing in Mike Piazza’s shadow, Edgardo Alfonzo hit .324 with 25 home runs in 2000, the last time the Mets won the National League pennant. He was also part of the celebrated “Greatest Infield Ever,” with Robin Ventura, Rey Ordonez and John Olerud, in 1999. This is a lot to try to live up too. Daniel Alfonzo has taken it all in stride.
“He’s very easy to coach, unassuming, quietly confident, not full of himself in any way,” Torney said. “He’s a pleasure to work with.”
That is because Daniel Alfonzo isn’t trying to be his dad.
“I just go out there and I do my job,” Daniel said. “I relax and have fun.”