Robbie: Pride of Puerto Rico

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:40 PM ET

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — My Avis rental car stopped a few feet short of the spikes protruding from the exit lane at Louis Monuz Marin International airport.

“Heard the big news?” we asked the Avis guard about three minutes after the Hall of Fame announcement was made Wednesday afternoon.

“Yesssssir!” said Avis man Rodolfo Gluck, putting the clipboard at this side. “Roberto Alomar is going to Cooperstown! To the Hall of Fame!

“He should have been in before. People will celebrate tonight.”

A teenager was asked about Alomar and, as teenagers often do, answered with a question as he gazed at the notebook: “Are you a reporter? Did you vote?”

“You guys ... even when you get it right you are a year late,” he said stomping off, the shirt-tails of his Allan Iverson jersey bouncing as he walked.

A few miles outside of the capital in Vega Baja, Manny Rosada was busy running his restaurant to celebrate.

“I’m excited, the whole island is excited,” Rosado said. “I watched him win both World Series for Toronto all be himself.

“He’s the first for the island since Orlando Cepeda,” he added. “Tony Perez is from Cuba, but he left and he plays like he’s from Puerto Rico, so sometimes we count him, too.”

Rosada claimed that Alomar had a record total of 90.4% of the vote. We write it down and he says: “No, no, no ... 94%.”

Actually, it was 90% (523 of 545 cast) on the nose, after falling eight votes short a year ago.

Also excited about the outcome was scout Jorge Posada. You might know him from the Direct TV commercials when he screams at his son, Jorge, Jr., of the New York Yankees after swinging at a high strike three.

“Roberto Alomar is the best second baseman in the history of the game,” said Posada. “His records are better than Joe Morgan’s. I think he’s ahead of Rogers Hornsby.”

Posada has worked the past 19 seasons scouting Latin America for the Colorado Rockies. Prior to that, he worked for the Blue Jays, scouting the second baseman as a 15-year-old in Alomar’s hometown of Salinas in 1984.

“I tried to sign Robbie when he turned 16,” Posada said. “But San Diego came along and signed Santos (his brother, Sandy Jr.) who was two years older and hired the father, Sandy, as a major-league coach. We couldn’t compete with that.”

Latin American scout Luis Rosa and Sandy Johnson signed the Alomar family at a group rate.

“I’m elated he’s going into the Hall of Fame. Robbie is like a another son to me,” Posada said.

Hopefully, he’s told, he never yelled as much at Alomar as he did as his own son.

Posada laughed. But only a little.

Now, Posada’s son is a Yankees hit machine. Back then, he was a slow-footed infielder. The Yanks drafted him and put him behind the plate.

Soon after, the father was drawing his cheques from the Rockies. Five World Series rings later ... the rest is history for the son.

Around second base, Alomar was as nimble as a cat after five Red Bulls. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci once described Alomar as having “the hands of a jeweller and the feet of a ballet dancer.”

After receiving the news from Baseball Writers Association of America secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell, Alomar phoned his father sitting on the tarmac in San Juan waiting for his Jet Blue flight to take off for JFK in New York.

“When he called, that choked me up,” the father said from the back of a limo headed into Manhattan. “The biggest prize I have is the way my sons turned out as citizens. They put their hearts into it, worked hard, made sacrifices. We’re proud of their accomplishments.

“It probably hasn’t hit me yet.”

From San Juan to New York to Cooperstown.

As routine and smooth as a double play turned by Alomar.

bob.elliott@sunmedia.ca


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