By Matthew John
Edgardo “Fonzie” Alfonzo is all too familiar with the New York atmosphere and he always wanted to come home.
The first-year Brooklyn Cyclones manager left quite the legacy during his playing days with the Mets.
In his seven years of pro ball in the Big Apple, Alfonzo earned a Silver Slugger Award, made an All-Star appearance, was an integral part of what was considered to be one of the best in-fields of all-time with John Olerud, Rey Ordonez and Robin Ventura, and made crucial contributions to the Mets’ run to a World Series in 2000.
His impact on the team made it easier for him to get involved with the organization again years later.
“That’s where I made my career. I kept my house in New York, so it was a great time to come back,” Alfonzo said. “I never left and I always wanted to be involved in the Mets’ organization.”
Alfonzo was first brought in by the Cyclones in 2014 where he was hired as an assistant coach. Alfonzo enjoyed working with the previous Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa for three years, believing he learned a lot from long-time coach.
“Gamboa was a great mentor for me,” Alfonzo said. “He showed me what I should do in a situation and that guy has been around baseball a lot, so it was good to be guided by him.”
Alfonzo was not the first member of his family to manage the Cyclones. His older brother, Edgar Alfonzo, managed the Cyclones in 2001, leading the team to a co-championship in its first year, and from 2007 to 2008. When Alfonzo was promoted as manager this season, he received some good advice from his sibling.
“He told me about this league and about running,” Alfonzo said. “[He told me] it’s pretty much all about pitching, holding runners and stuff like that.”
With half the season now in the books, Alfonzo has learned a fair amount since the start. The area where he believes he has learned the most as manager is the one part of the game he didn’t have much experience with in the pros.
“The biggest thing for me, and what I’m trying to learn as much as I can, is pitching-wise and how to deal with it,” Alfonzo said. “When you have the draft so close to the season, you have to know how you’re going to use your pitching, especially with the draft guys. They throw a lot of innings in college, but with the count here, you have to cut it up and work nice and slow with them.”
Most importantly, Alfonzo knows he plays a vital role in these players’ futures. For most of the players on the rosters, playing for the Cyclones is their first real taste of professional baseball, so he knows that his influence can make a big impact on the Mets of tomorrow.
“I try to talk to the guys pretty much every day to prepare them to play in Citi Field,” Alfonzo said. “I make sure that they understand that they have the talent to make it into the big leagues… The biggest thing for me is to try to develop these guys and to teach them to learn as much as possible about baseball.”