August 25, 2012
Sandy Alomar passes on lessons
By BOB ELLIOT, QMI Agency
MIDLAND, Mich. - The bell does not sound, but class is in session.
Sandy Alomar, a Hall of Famer father and instructor, is seated at a round table in the visiting clubhouse of Dow Diamond.
As Blue Jays farmhands with the class-A Lansing Lugnuts arrive to play the Great Lake Loons, they stopped and shook hands -- part recognition, part respect.
Eventually players returned, slid into the empty chair as teacher Alomar, 68, passed on lessons learned from the likes of Eddie Stanky, Billy Martin and Rocky Bridges.
“You have to observe,” he tells infielder Jason Leblebijian,
He’s not admonishing, he’s not yelling and most important he’s not speaking down to his students.
“Their fast guy, Darnell Sweeney, did you notice him last night? When he led off, his arms would be down, every time he moved his fingers -- he didn’t run. Every time he didn’t move his fingers -- he ran.
“Did you notice that?” Alomar asks in a slow monotone.
Blank looks from Leblebijian and everyone else around the table.
“You have to relax from the waist up, to lean forward fielding a ground ball, feel the weight on your arch, but keep your heel on the ground,” he tells Leblebijian, a 25th rounder from Bradley University, the first player from 2012 draft to make Lansing.
“Do you check where the sun is after every pitch? Do you see where your outfielders are? Do you adjust when you see the catcher’s signals?” Alomar asks in his quiet manner.
You can clothes our eyes and imagine him sitting around the kitchen table in his Salinas, Puerto Rico, passing on wisdom to his son Robbie was inducted into Cooperstown in 2011.
“It was the living room, Robbie and I would sit up ‘til 4 a.m. talking ball,” Alomar said. “Robbie wanted to know hot to take advantage of the other team, what to be look for. In 1984, Robbie went with Puerto Rico to Cuba. We came back and he watched the World Series.”
The Detroit Tigers with Kirk Gibson going upper deck off reliever Goose Gossage beat the San Diego Padres.
“Robbie would say, you know I’m going to play for the Padres,” the father said. Robbie signed with San Diego, wore a Padres uniform in 1988 and arrived in Dunedin for the 1991 season as a Blue Jay.
Next in the chair was outfielder Nick Baligod, with infielder Chris Peters sitting on a trunk, listening, after hitting off a tee in the batting cage.
“What did you try to do?” Alomar asked.
“Relax,” Baligod answered.
“Do you know why you hit the ball so well off the tee? Because you have a short stride,” Alomar says.
“My problem is my stride during games, I stride too far,” Baligod admits.
Alomar raises his eye brows in mock shock and says “no, really?”
“Did you see their starter last night, every time he threw a breaking ball he was relaxed, slow to the plate. Every time he threw a fastball, he rushed and his right shoulder flew open?”
First time I met Sandy Alomar was the 1990 all-star game at Wrigley Field, father-and-son day at the park, papa with his two all-star sons, Robbie and catcher Sandy, Jr.
Asked who won games between his youngsters, the father said Robbie never lost ... “he’d quit if he was losing.”
Games between father and son during a break in the class room session?
“Robbie would cheat playing Casino (cards) with me,” Sandy laughed. “He’d cheat counting cards, he’d cheat anyway you name.”
Next in the chair was first baseman K.C. Hobson.
The night before with two out in the 10th, Joseph Winker hit a grounder up the middle with speedster James Baldwin on second. Shortstop Shane Opitz fielded the ball, spun, throwing high and late to first.
Baldwin came all the way around from second, beating Hobson’s return throw to win the game.
“About last night,” Alomar begins.
“Yeah, I thought he might try to score,” Hobson said.
“Look I’m not trying to place blame, but if you think he’s going to go, you have to forget the out, come off the base, get the ball and throw home,” Alomar says calmly. “You had a shot.”
During batting practice Alomar hit Hobson grounders. Alomar never say a word, but he’d bend over illustrating back-handing the ball in a sweeping motion. The wrong way (he shook his head no), the right way (he nodded yes).
A couple of ground balls later, Alomar gave Hobson a thumbs up.
Early afternoon sessions will continue the next five days as Alomar visits Lansing after instructing in the Dominican Summer League and Dunedin.
The scene was reminiscent of watching Bobby Mattick and Alfredo Griffin passing on knowledge at the Jays minor-league complex one late afternoon in 1994 before it was named in Mattick’s memory.
Like Mattick, Alomar was passing on what their special eyes saw.