Alomar wants to inspire young players in PR
Hall of Famer will attend MLB's Pitch, Hit & Run finals on the island Saturday
NEW YORK -- Roberto Alomar has already achieved the highest honor available to a Major League player. The former second baseman was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
Now, the Puerto Rican native has a new dream: to share his knowledge of baseball with the youth of his homeland in the hopes of inspiring a new generation of ballplayers.
Alomar will attend Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit & Run Finals event on Saturday in Hatillo, Puerto Rico. The free program is a baseball skills contest for boys and girls ages 8-13. One winner each from three age groups will be rewarded with a trip to the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field in Minnesota. Alomar, in addition to signing autographs and posing for photos, is ready to coach and encourage the young participants.
"I feel very good about doing this kind of work with the kids," said Alomar, in Spanish, via conference call. "I think we have to help kids stay on the right path and show them positive things. For me, it's an honor that Major League Baseball invited me to be a part of this program."
Alomar, who also participates in plenty of community events as a special assistant with the Toronto Blue Jays, cites his own upbringing as motivation for mentoring the youth of Puerto Rico.
Alomar and his older brother, Sandy Jr. -- a former big league catcher and current bench coach of the Cleveland Indians -- are the sons of former Major League second baseman Sandy Alomar Sr., who played from 1964-78. The sons grew up spending time with and observing ballplayers.
"I think the kids should have an opportunity to communicate with us and we should be there for them and motivate them," said the Hall of Famer, who played for the Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox and D-backs from 1988-2004. "I was a kid once and I had the opportunity to be around a lot of Major League players thanks to my dad. That motivated me and gave me the knowledge to accomplish everything I did.
"My role model was always my father. But after him, I loved watching [fellow Puerto Rican] José Cruz. I observed a lot of baseball players and watched a lot of baseball as a kid thanks to my dad. There was Joe Morgan, who played second base, and Ryne Sandberg and many others."
In 17 years in the big leagues, Alomar compiled a .300 batting average, 210 homers and 1,134 RBIs. He also won 10 Gold Glove Awards and was selected to 12 consecutive All-Star Games.
Alomar believes that in the long run, initiatives like Pitch, Hit & Run can help to counteract the effects of the First-Year Player Draft, of which Puerto Rican players have been included since 1990. Players from the island must complete high school before they are eligible to sign professional contracts, and they face competition in the selection process from high school and college players in the U.S. and Canada.
Some believe the inclusion of Puerto Rican players in the Draft has resulted in clubs evaluating and developing talent elsewhere, such as the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
"The Draft hurt us in Puerto Rico," said Alomar. "But I think we have the talent. I think that with the clinics and programs that are going on right now, the kids are focused on baseball again."
Like many of his countrymen, Alomar is proud of Astros prospect Carlos Correa, the first overall Draft pick in 2012. Correa is the only Puerto Rican player to be selected with the first pick. The young shortstop, Alomar believes, represents the hope that his homeland, which has also yielded such current stars as Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, will once again become an incubator for Major League talent.
"I think he is going to be one of the great players to come out of Puerto Rico," said Alomar of Correa.
Alomar also believes that Team Puerto Rico's second-place finish in the 2013 World Baseball Classic has helped revive enthusiasm for the sport on the island. In fact, he hopes to one day participate in the international tournament himself.
"I would love to one day represent Puerto Rico as a coach, since I didn't get the chance as a player," he said.
Nathalie Alonso is a writer and editorial producer for LasMayores.com, the official Spanish-language site for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.