Ryan Braun Gives Yonder Alonso New Cleats For Futures Game

ANAHEIM -- Yonder Alonso raised his right foot a few inches off the carpet in the visiting clubhouse to show off his brand-new Nike cleats, black with the red trim of his parent club, the Cincinnati Reds.

"Braun got me these cleats," Alonso said with a smile, referring to Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun.

Though Alonso and Braun are on track to one day be National League Central rivals -- and maybe before the end of the season -- for now they merely share the bond and friendship of having both played at the University of Miami. On Sunday as Alonso, a first baseman/corner outfielder and Cincinnati's most prized hitting prospect, participated in the 12th annual All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium, he was all too happy to rave about his new kicks and the experience of playing in a major-league ballpark.

"This is unbelievable," Alonso said. "I mean, wow. It's breathtaking, man, and this is only the visiting clubhouse. The field is unbelievable, and the balls seem to carry more because we're so excited."

For as close as many of these players are to the majors, they have still retained their sense of awe, even though Alonso and several of his Futures Game teammates and opponents -- most notably Phillies Triple A rightfielder Domonic Brown and two Rays in Triple A, outfielder Desmond Jennings and starter Jeremy Hellickson -- could all play roles in the major-league pennant races.

Alonso, meanwhile, who went 1-for-4 with a single on Sunday, could just as easily be traded away to a rebuilding team and away from the excitement of a playoff push. His power numbers this year haven't been gaudy -- .266 average, .333 OBP, nine home runs and 10 stolen bases -- but he's been simultaneously learning to play the outfield with All-Star Joey Votto entrenched at first base at the major-league level.

When the prospect of moving from the infield to the outfield arose, Alonso consulted Braun, who made the same switch with the Brewers.
"He said the outfield was great," Alonso said. "It can help you get to the majors quicker and if you can play left and right, it opens some options up. Any time you can play more than one position, it helps."

Alonso worked out almost every day of the offseason with the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, a part-time Miami resident and generous benefactor of The U, and with his father, who hit him flyball after flyball to help him prepare for his new position.

Of course, Alonso still may not play in Cincinnati's outfield either. Jonny Gomes and Jay Bruce are holding down the corner spots, Alonso may get his major-league chance only as a pinch hitter -- or with another team. He was mentioned as a possible trade chip when the Reds pursued Mariners starter Cliff Lee.

When those rumors first circulated about his possible involvement in a trade, he consulted his friend Matt LaPorta, the Indians' first baseman traded as part of a deal for CC Sabathia two years ago. LaPorta counseled Alonso, saying that trades are simply out of a player's control and too much time spent worrying about them will negatively affect one's play on the field.

Brown, who beat out an infield single on Sunday but left early with mild tightness in his right hamstring, was the object of intense speculation both at least year's deadline and over the offseason when the Phillies pursued Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay. Brown's own lesson was just to ignore it.

"I don't know anything about that," he said. "I just go out and do the best that I can. If I were worrying about all the trade talk, I'd be hitting a buck-fifty."

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