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APTOPIX All Star Game Baseball

National League first baseman Pete Alonso (left), of the New York Mets, stretches to take a throw to retire the American League's Carlos Santana, of the Cleveland Indians, in the sixth inning of the All-Star Game, on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

CLEVELAND — For Pete Alonso, the New York Mets slugging first baseman and one of the breakout All-Stars of this week’s festivities, standing in the National League clubhouse on Tuesday was “surreal” and “just a little bit crazy.” That’s because the player he thinks of as synonymous with the All-Star Game was not there with him, as he hoped.

And he still was.

“For me, it’s like, I’m an All-Star and my idol, a guy I want to emulate, Paul Goldschmidt (is) not here and I am,” Alonso said. “I just idolize him.”

Alonso, 24, became the second rookie to win the Home Run Derby outright when he edged Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on Monday night in the most power-packed derby ever. Then he drove it two runs, with a single, Tuesday night in the National League’s 4-3 loss to the American League in the All-Star Game.

It was a fitting punctuation to a first half in which Alonso set a rookie record with 30 home runs before the All-Star break. With Atlanta mainstay Freddie Freeman elected by the fans to start at first base for the National League, Alonso and the Pirates’ Josh Bell were selected as the other first baseman, giving Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo, and Goldschmidt a break. Goldschmidt, in his first year with the Cardinals, had been the only player in the National League elected to the previous six All-Star Games.

Alonso made sure his name came up at least a dozen times.

“He’s a player who I want to be like,” Alonso said. “I identify with him because he’s a blue-collar guy, a hard-worker. He’s overcome a lot of stigma in his career. He’s like, ‘All right, if you don’t think I’m a good hitter, I’m going to rake.’ And, ‘If you don’t think I’m a good defender, I’m going to win not one Gold Glove Award but three Gold Gloves.’ He’s a complete ballplayer. He’s not the fastest, but he’ll steal 20 bags in a year. I just hope to be like that.”

Alonso’s fondness for Goldschmidt, who spent his six All-Star seasons in Arizona, began with Paul Konerko, the former White Sox first baseman. Alonso was taken by Konerko’s play for the 2005 World Series champs, and said he still watches Konerko’s highlights from that season once a week. When Konerko retired, a teenage Alonso latched onto a new favorite player, one like Konerko and at the same position: Goldschmidt.

A mutual friend asked Goldschmidt if he could spend 60 seconds talking to Alonso this spring, and the conversation lasted much longer. They spoke again recently when the Cardinals visited New York. And if asked at that time, Alonso said he would have hoped to be in Cleveland with Goldschmidt, but couldn’t guarantee he would be.

A day after winning a $1 million prize as the Home Run Derby champ, he still was processing.

“I don’t know, to me it’s just surreal,” Alonso said. He added, “Guys like Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt — those guys are All-Stars and I’m here and they’re not. It’s very humbling. I’m at a loss for words.”

ALCANTARA EAGER TO ‘STAR’

From the Cardinals-Marlins trade in December 2017 that netted the Cards the cleanup hitter they craved, the first player to reach the All-Star Game since then was not the slugger or the everyday center fielder, but the centerpiece prospect of the deal, Sandy Alcantara.

Like Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, Alcantara was selected by the commissioner’s office when the Marlins did not have a player chosen by the vote of fans, players, or coaches. He pitched the eighth inning, allowing one hit, no runs and striking out one. (DeJong walked in his only plate appearance, then stole a base.)

Upon arrival with the Marlins, Alcantara, 23, got a chance to start, and he’s been a fixture in the rotation this season with a 3.82 ERA in 17 starts and 70 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings.

“I was not (expecting) the Cardinals to trade me,” Alcantara said. “But being out on the field, doing my thing and trying to be consistent every day — the Marlins gave me the opportunity to be here. I’m happy to be competing.”

Alcantara, a 6-foot-4 power righthander, began the season with eight shutout innings in his first start, and on May 19 he struck out eight and threw the first shutout of his career. This season he has two games of at least eight shutout innings. The Cardinals’ rotation has one, total.

Of Alcantara’s selection to the All-Star Game, Miami manager Don Mattingly told reporters it’s an honor that could show the righthander how “you really need to take it to the next level.”

EXTRA BASES

Back from baseball’s first visit to London, Boston center fielder Mookie Betts had some suggestions for the Cubs and Cardinals when they head to the United Kingdom for a two-game series in June 2020 and face jet lag: “Maybe an extra day (off) may have helped. It’s still kind of tough. It’s that second or third day that gets you. Get on the right sleep pattern. Whatever you’ve got to do, whatever your people tell you to do, do it.”

• As a tribute to teammate Tyler Skaggs, who died earlier this month while asleep at the team hotel in Texas, Angels All-Stars Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella wore Skaggs’ No. 45 on their game jerseys.

• Asked about brewing hostilities with the Pirates, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said about the NL Central: “I don’t even know if we have a rival. The division is all very good.”

• The Cubs; Javy Baez is the third player to start an All-Star Game at second and shortstop and the first to do so since the 1970s.

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Derrick Goold is the lead Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and past president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.