In Conversation with Roberto Alomar
On opening day of the 1991 Toronto Blue Jays season, the team had a new second baseman in Roberto Alomar.
On opening day of the 1991 Toronto Blue Jays season, the team had a new second baseman in Roberto Alomar. Over the next five seasons, Alomar would mesmerize Canadian baseball fans with his consistency, both offensively and defensively. On 10 August 2014, Alomar was part of a prestigious group of Blue Jays alumni who ran a baseball camp in Okotoks, Alberta. Between teaching kids how to swing a bat and run the bases, he took the time to talk to Jeremy Freeborn of The Canadian Encyclopedia.
JF: On 5 December 1990, you and Joe Carter were traded from San Diego to Toronto for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff in one of the most significant trades in Blue Jays history. What were your initial thoughts about coming to Toronto?
RA: I was really surprised first of all that I got traded from the San Diego Padres. In the beginning, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know a lot about the city. I didn’t know a lot about the team. On the other hand, I asked a few questions. I asked my dad [former Major League Baseball all-star second baseman Sandy Alomar Sr.], and I asked some friends. They all said I was going to a great place and a great city. When I got here, everyone embraced me. It was awesome.
JF: In 1991, your first year in Toronto, the Blue Jays advanced to the American League Championship Series but lost to Minnesota. Even though the team lost, you batted .474 in your first playoff series. How much confidence did you get from the 1991 postseason and did the experience help you over the next two years?
RA: That was my first playoff atmosphere. I felt good. I love those kind of challenges. It was great to be on a great team. It was great to be in the playoffs. It’s not every time you get to go to the playoffs. It was like a dream come true for any player. It was a lot of fun. From that point on, we won two World Series (1992 and 1993).
JF: How did it feel to be on the very first World Series championship team of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992?
RA: It was a great feeling. As a baseball player, you always want to achieve that goal. It’s one of the toughest goals to achieve. You need teamwork. It is not an individual achievement. We had a great team, a great manager [Cito Gaston] and a great organization. We went out there and played the game the right way.
JF: Tell me about your reaction when you saw Joe Carter hit the game-winning three-run home run in game six of the World Series in 1993.
RA: It was a great feeling, especially when you are on the winning side. It was a two and two count. He hit a good pitch and out of the ball park. He was one of the greatest hitters we ever had within our organization.
JF: During your time in Toronto, you were a five time all-star and won a Gold Glove each season. What defensive play were you the most proud of and why?
RA: I made a lot of great plays, but if I have to pick one, I’d have to say it was a play I made in the World Series behind John Olerud. I have to say that because of the situation. We were in the World Series. I just have to pick that one.
JF: Your best overall offensive season was arguably in Cleveland in 1999 at age 31. How satisfying was it to hit a career-high 24 home runs and 120 runs batted in that season?
RA: As an individual it is always fun to hit those kind of numbers. As a group, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve. We fell short in going to the World Series [lost in five games to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Divisional Series]. As an individual, I think I had one of my best years in Cleveland. It was a great season.
JF: After retiring in 2004, you stayed very close to the Blue Jays organization. What are some of the projects you have been involved in with the Blue Jays over the last decade?
RA: We have a Super Camp program. I have been involved with the Blue Jays Care Foundation, involved with the community. I am a special advisor for the team and the organization. I want to continue to help the youth. I want youth to stay in the right path. I came from a small town in Puerto Rico and I know what it takes to go all the way to the end and to go all the way to the big leagues. For me, it is really important to give back. That is what I’m doing now. I’m having a lot of fun doing that. I also have my own company in Toronto that is called Alomar Baseball. We make bats, gloves and batting gloves. Just baseball stuff. I am having a lot of fun and enjoying my life so far.
RA: I love it. I love coming to different towns in Canada. My wife is Canadian. Getting to know Canada and getting to know the people and paying back to communities is something I will always remember. I’m glad I’m part of this program. I’m glad we continue to grow. Just to give the kids an opportunity to enjoy the game and come here and be surrounded by alumni guys who are being so helpful. It is a lot of fun.
JF: In 2011, you became the first Blue Jay player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Describe what it was like to be the very first Toronto Blue Jay player in one of the most prestigious sports museums in the world?
RA: It was a big day for me to remember. First of all, I can’t believe that I was part of the Hall of Fame. As a kid you dream to play the game, but you never dream to be in the Hall of Fame. It was a great accomplishment. I will be remembered for being one of the elite players in the game. When I was giving my speech, I was very emotional. Seeing my family there, and seeing a lot of Canadian fans, Latino fans and Puerto Rican fans — it was like a dream come true. It was like a kid walking from the first day that he went into the Little League all the way to the Big League, and now he is walking into the Hall of Fame. That is an unbelievable accomplishment.
JF: Who influenced you the most in your baseball career?
RA: I would have to say my dad. My dad’s the one that always gave me the right advice. He was always there for me. My mom was the heart and soul of the family. She took me to the little league games. She always went to my games in the big league. I couldn’t ask for better. My parents, all my family, my brother [Sandy Alomar Jr. who was a Major League Baseball catcher], my sister, they were always there for me.
JF: On a personal level, what would you consider as the greatest moment in your life and why?
RA: My first hit in the big leagues against Nolan Ryan. That was for me a dream come true. Or playing with my brother in the All-Star Game (1990–2 and 1996–8). If I have to say one, though, my greatest moment would be winning the World Series. A close second was getting inducted into the Hall of Fame: you see Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and all these great players behind you — that’s a great feeling.
JF: For those young Canadian baseball players who dream of becoming a future Major League Baseball player, what would you tell them?
RA: To believe in yourself. Go out there and work hard. Always dream big. If you dream big, good things will happen. That’s my advice to them.