In August, the Orioles shared a video on Twitter showing Hanser Alberto wiping down the Orioles dugout during a game against the Washington Nationals.
Teams have to keep their environment sterilized amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it came as no surprise that Alberto rose to the occasion.
The effusive Orioles infielder is usually the first player atop the dugout steps to encourage a teammate, and he’s not afraid to pump his fist after a crucial hit.
His personality has given the young, rebuilding club a spark.
“That’s me right there playing baseball. I’m always the happy guy, loud and always making noise, trying to push my teammates,” Alberto said. “That’s what I want. Sometimes we have a hard day and so I try to put a smile on my face and they laugh from that, and I think I can give them the opportunity to be ready for the game. So, that’s what I’ve been doing.”
This has been a challenging year for sports at every level with seasons being canceled or starting late. Major League Baseball didn’t open the season until July 23, and several teams have experienced difficulties with players testing positive for the coronavirus.
It presents challenges in the Orioles clubhouse, too. The team has a tight-knit group of players, and they have had to practice social distancing under guidelines set by the league and Players Association. This has been tough on players like Alberto, who especially enjoys the camaraderie with his teammates.
“It’s a little hard because we have really good relationships and pretty good spirit,” Alberto, 27, said. “But see, we can’t give a hug, we can’t give a high-five. … In the clubhouse, it used to be a little different. We’re talking and now we’re trying to be not really close, but at least 6 feet from each other and that keeps us a little happier with everything that’s happening right now and we just try to push and support each other.”
The right-handed-hitting Alberto has given the Orioles a boost with his bat, and he’s become one of the league’s best hitters against left-handed pitching. Manager Brandon Hyde said Alberto’s enthusiasm has a positive impact on the other players, and his approach at the plate is paying dividends for the team.
“He’s fun to watch play,” Hyde said. “He’s fun in the clubhouse. He’s fun in the field. He brings an energy wherever he is, a positive energy. He doesn’t want to come out of the lineup. … He’s just playing so well. The at-bats are very, very competitive. He’s playing a solid second base; you’ve seen a bunch of double plays that he’s turned. He has great hands and footwork around the base.
“He’s our catalyst and when he goes, we go. He is involved in all our big innings and rallies. He’s just a great guy to have on the club. I’m just really happy for his success and it’s been fun to watch.”
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Alberto was signed as an international free agent by the Texas Rangers in 2009 and made his major league debut in 2015. He played in parts of three seasons for the Rangers but was waived four times during the 2018-19 offseason before eventually settling in with Baltimore.
In 2019, Alberto batted .305/.329/.422 with 12 home runs. His .305 average ranked eighth in the American League and 16th in the majors. He also hit .398 (88-for-221) against left-handed pitching — the most hits against lefties in the majors and the second-highest average behind Boston’s J.D. Martinez (.404).
“Play to enjoy the game,” Alberto said. “Just go out there and have fun because when you enjoy the game or you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to be a better soul. Because that’s what I’m doing and when I step on the field, I just try to enjoy the game and put a smile on my face. That’s the key: that you have fun, you put a smile on your face, and you push your teammates, and to be aware of everything around, to have an idea of what is going on.”
Alberto has continued to hit in 2020 and was slashing .311/.336/.459 with two home runs entering play Aug. 28. Alberto has also continued to be lethal against lefties.
He has been able to take the challenges of this season in stride. The Orioles were one of the surprises of the league through the first quarter of the 60-game schedule, putting together back-to-back sweeps against the Philadelphia Phillies and defending World Series champion Nationals in August.
“The mentality is come every day and do my best,” Alberto said. “Hopefully, it will resolve because I know this is an uncharted season.”
Alberto has developed a special bond with catcher and fellow Dominican Republic native Pedro Severino. The two help one another by swapping tips about hitting. Severino has been solid for the Orioles and was slashing .333/.413/.568 with five home runs entering play Aug. 28.
“We had never met before,” Alberto said of Severino. “I mean, we played against each other once a year when he was with the Nationals … in High-A. We faced each other a couple of times. The thing is I’ve never seen him before, so we got him in spring training last year. So, I was the one guy who came to him and introduced myself again. And since that day, we became really, really close.
“We have been really close friends but not just in the field, [but] off the field we’ve been pretty good. After the season last year, we went to the Dominican. We met there and we just kept in touch ever since. You know, learning from each other. I helped him out a lot and he helped me. And we just become friends now.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox