Coming home

Emotions flow for Roberto Alomar during visit to Hall of Fame

April 26, 2011
Hall of Fame electee Roberto Alomar reads some of the plaques during his orientation visit to Cooperstown. (Marilu Lopez Fretts/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Roberto Alomar was born into a world of baseball.

On Tuesday, Alomar made his first pilgrimage to the home of baseball – and for Alomar, it felt like he was coming home.

Alomar, one of three members of the Class of 2011 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, visited Cooperstown for the first time Tuesday as part of the annual Orientation Tour for new electees. Looking confident and relaxed in blue jeans and a black blazer, Alomar learned about the Museum and the July 22-25 Hall of Fame Weekend – when he will return to Cooperstown to be enshrined along with Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick.

"It's unbelievable – a dream for me" said Alomar, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 24. "Getting to know some of the history of the ballplayers I never saw. When I was a little boy, all I wanted was to play the game of baseball. Now to be here... it's amazing just to be walking around here."

As part of the tour, Alomar saw a screening of "The Baseball Experience," the film that greets Museum visitors as they enter the Hall of Fame. At the end of the film, the 43-year-old Alomar found himself singing along with former Cubs broadcaster – and 1989 Ford C. Frick Award winner – Harry Caray during "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

From there, Alomar enjoyed the rest of the Museum's exhibits, including ¡Viva Baseball! – the Hall of Fame's tribute to the Latin American passion for the game. Alomar, a native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, is the 10th Latin American native to be elected to the Hall of Fame and the third Puerto Rican, joining Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda.

"We feel blessed, coming from and island of only four million people, to have so many Puerto Rican players like Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente, Carlos Delgado and Ivan Rodriguez," Alomar said. "Latin Americans have accomplished so many things in baseball.

"I had a God-given talent, but when I played I played for my country and my people. Everything I did, I did for them."

What Alomar did was re-write the records books. The 12-time All-Star recorded 2,724 hits in his 17 big league seasons with the Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks, winning 10 Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards at second base. In 1992 and 1993, he was the soul of a Blue Jays team that won back-to-back World Series titles.

During his tour, Alomar paused at several exhibits – including tributes to the 1992-93 Blue Jays and in the famous Plaque Gallery at the bronze likenesses of Clemente and Cepeda.

But he spent the most time in ¡Viva Baseball!, reflecting on those who came before and after him on the diamond.

"I grew up wanting to be like my dad, who's been my hero from day one," said Alomar, referring to his father, Sandy Alomar Sr., who played 15 big league seasons from 1964-78. "So this all means a lot for my country, myself and my family.

"Puerto Rico has a heart for baseball. I know there's going to be more Puerto Rican Hall of Famers coming soon."

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum