Yonder Alonso Joins 'From Phenom To The Farm:' Episode 26
“From Phenom to the Farm” releases new episodes every other Tuesday featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.
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Yonder Alonso left the University of Miami an All-American, two-time participant in the College World Series, and first-round pick who’d go on to sign a $4.55 million contract with the Reds. Without some wise foresight and guidance from his parents, he might’ve left the school a week into his freshman year, or not even attended at all.
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Drafted by the Twins in the 16th round out of Coral Gables (Fla.) HS, Alonso very much wanted to leave his scholarship behind and turn pro. He was confident in his abilities as a power-hitting first baseman, and felt he could get to the big leagues in two to three years.
Starting his journey to the show as soon as possible wasn’t the only motivator for Alonso to want to forgo college and sign. When he was nine years old his family defected from Cuba, and his parents Luis and Damarys each worked three to four jobs at a time to keep food on the table and a roof over the head of Yonder and his younger sister Yainee. The Alonsos had struggled financially since they’d arrived in America, and in Yonder’s eyes the $200,000 being offered by the Twins was the perfect way to help.
“It was because we needed the money so bad,” said Alonso. “I needed to get my parents out of these crazy jobs, and get them a house—which I thought I could just get them a house with this type of money.”
His parents and his advisors had other ideas—he was getting his degree at Miami. A somewhat reluctant Yonder enrolled in the Fall of 2005, and immediately had some second thoughts when he learned how serious Miami was about the physical conditioning of its baseball players.
“My first day at Miami was not fun—it was probably one of the worst days of my life,” said Alonso, laughing when recalling his resistance to his first workouts at The U. “I called my dad and said I don’t think I’m ready for this training, ready for this running.”
He was already more tired than your average college student—multiple times a week he would work overnight cleaning warehouses with his father to help his family make ends meet—but between the running, the lifting, the practice, extra work, and a full course load, Alonso was gassed. However, with parents who’d spent a decade working themselves exhausted so Yonder could prosper as inspiration, he pushed through initial struggles at Miami and eventually blossomed.
Twenty years after the Alonso family arrived in Miami penniless, Yonder was named an A.L. All-Star for the first All-Star Game played at Marlins Park. He returned to his hometown to play in the game in front of family and friends, including the person who’d sacrificed the most for Yonder’s dream.
“At the All-Star festivities nobody could come with you, but somehow, some way, my dad was with me the whole time,” said Alonso. “He was in the clubhouse with me, we were eating together, we did team pictures together, did the Home Run Derby together (…) I was just looking at him like ‘How crazy is this that we’re here?’”
Alonso was inducted into the University of Miami Hall of Fame in 2018, and announced his retirement after ten big league seasons in 2020.
On our latest episode of ‘From Phenom to the Farm’, we’re joined by former big league 1st basemen Yonder Alonso. He talks going up in Miami as the son of Cuban immigrants, playing in the College World Series for his hometown university, and his 10-year big league career.