The sell-out crowd at the Rogers Centre on July 31, 2011 roared for Roberto Alomar’s number 12, the first number retired by the Toronto Blue Jays, rising up to the top of the dome. I still like to call it the Sky Dome.
This was what I call The Roberto Alomar Tour.
It ignited earlier this year when we heard Robbie got the nod to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I watched every interview, read every article and bought tickets to a Blue Jays ceremony on behalf of the hall-of-famer. They hung his, and Pat Gillick’s, banner. We then bought our plane tickets to New York to make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown.
I remember watching Robbie play. It was the summer of 1991 and as a six-year-old kid all I wanted to hear, do and think about was baseball. The Blue Jays acquired Joe Carter and Alomar in the offseason and to me that just meant more players on my favorite team. It meant I got to watch my idol play 160+ games year for 5 amazing season.
All I wanted to hear every summer was “At second base, number 12, Roberto Alomar!” I was hooked. On my seventh birthday, I dreamed about wearing an official Alomar Blue Jays Jersey and when I tore through my birthday box, I found it and my parents laundry load shrunk. I wore it every day, no matter if it was clean or dirty, it had to be on my back every single day, or at least for every game.
I took my first trip to New York City, all in preparation for the ride to Cooperstown. I took a couple of days off of work. After a long day in Manhattan, we loaded up the car at 1am and drove to Cooperstown, to grab some of the first seats at the ceremony.
Arriving at 6am, we walked in to the local diner, packed with jerseys, hats and fans from all over North America. Soon after, autograph signings and we jumped at the chance to meet the Hit King, Pete Rose.
It was probably the hottest day of the year in Cooperstown, but that didn’t stop more than 10,000+ Toronto Fans from showing up. We saw people in their Maple Leaf lawn chairs, waving Canadian Blue Jay Flags and hearing the whispers of the name Alomar across the town.
After hearing the introduction of 47 of the greatest players of all time, including Yogi Bera, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Tony Gwynn, it was time for the man to speak. From the moment the video montage began, until the moment he said his last thank you— I was on my feet. In 40-degree weather, Goosebumps populated over my arms. He thanked all of his latino supporters, the fans in Toronto and most importantly, his family.
He walked off stage with thousands of people on their feet chanting “Robbie, Robbie, Robbie, Robbie!”
The ceremony ended and everyone hurried back to the Hall of Fame to take the tour and to line to enter the Plaque Hall. His plaque had one of the best inscriptions in the Hall, it read “Set the Standard for a generation of second baseman with a quick powerful bat, a smooth, steady glove, and seemingly endless range.”
Back to the Rogers Centre ceremony, we didn’t get a bobble head on Alomar bobble head day. But, we heard the legend speak one more time.
He entered the field in a classy demeanor; through the crowd in right field, close to his home at second base. A giant 12 covered the second base area. Again, he had a stage full of supporters, people on their feet, his family and friends in attendance and one fan who spent his whole life following Alomar.
One of the saddest days in my life was hearing Robbie at a his retirement press conference say “I can’t play like I used too. I’m done.” A tear slipped out from my right eye. Seeing a man who commanded the baseball diamond for more than 17 years say he couldn’t play anymore just didn’t make sense to me.
Batting Average .300
Total hits 2,724
Total Home Runs 210
Total Runs Batted in 1,134
Total Stolen Bases 474
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