August 25, 2012
Young Jays learning from a legend
By BOB ELLIOTT, 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 who 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 how 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 would 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 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.
Jays give it up
Luis Perez had four holds for the Blue Jays this season.
His most important hold came after his Tommy John surgery. Earlier this month he made the trip from the Bobby Mattick complex in Dunedin to Tropicana Field when the Jays made a visit.
Perez told players of long-time coach Omar Malave, how his grand daughter Elisse needed open heart surgery next month in Boston and how money was needed.
Malave said Perez brought financial support from the likes of Edwin Encarnacion, Omar Vizquel, Moises Sierra, Adeiny Hechavarria, Carlos Villanueva, Jose Bautista and coach Luis Rivera.
“We can’t say thank you enough to the fans who have contributed, all the players and my organization,” said Malave. “Every night I go to sleep thinking about how many people who have reached out to help this little girl.”
We’ve asked players if they contributed and how much, they answer yes, but say the amount is a private matter, it’s up to Malave. Malave, a member of Cito Gaston’s staff with the Jays in 2010 as bullpen coach, wasn’t known well by all current Jays, but if a player came up through the system the players knew him well and respected him.
Malave has been with the Jays every year but one since 1981 as player, manager or coach, managing 2,536 games.
“Carlos Delgado phoned very early in the morning he returned to Puerto Rico from the Olympics in London,” said Malave, his voice cracking. “His cheque arrived the other day and brought tears to my eyes. He has a very big heart. He is a wonderful family man.”
Malave has received financial help from former Jays manager John Gibbons, lefty Brett Cecil and ex-Jay Paul Spoljaric.
Elisse’s father, Joe Jensen has a new job, but his insurance does not kick in until Nov. 1 and with surgery scheduled Sept. 17, monies were needed.
There are Tampa-Boston flights, a three-week stay in Boston, return trips for three-month check-ups and debt from hospital stays when grandson Eli passed Nov. 2 needing a lung transplant.
Number gone missing
Blue Jays coach Luis Rivera managed the class-A Lake County Captains in 2003, the first year Eastlake, Ohio, had a franchise. Rivera earned South Atlantic League manager of the year honours after his team compiled a minor-league best record of 97–43 (.693). Three years later Rivera was coaching with the Cleveland Indians and was invited to Classic Park on an off day to have his uniform retired.
“Did you see my number on the centre field fence when you were in Lake County?” asked Rivera this week when the Jays were in Detroit.
Ah, they probably painted over it, I told him.
Checking it out, Rivera’s number actually was covered over a few years ago by advertising. He is recognized in another part of the stadium with a plaque dedicated to him, according to a Captains official.
Support needed for kids
Cindy and Paul Moelker, passed away in a tragic accident when overcome by carbon monoxide from a generator at their home near Carrying Place on July 20.
The Moelkers’ three children — Samantha, 19, Marcus, 15, and Taylor, 11 — were not at home and survived. The whole family was involved in both Trenton-area baseball and hockey leagues.
A trust fund for the Moelker children has been set up at Kawartha Credit Union. Roughly $10,000 was raised Aug. 18 with a yard sale, BBQ, bake sale and raffles.
A minor peewee game will be played at Trenton’s Centennial Park Sunday at 3 p.m. as the Kraft Celebration Tour and TSN comes to town. Diana Matheson, who scored the winning goal to win a bronze medal for Canada in women’s soccer will be on hand as well.
Day-by-day on the way
to the 1992 World Series
n April 29: Todd Stottlemyre pitched a complete-game 1-0 win over the Angels, fanning five. John Olerud singled off Jim Abbott with two out in the ninth, Rob Ducey pinch ran, Candy Maldonado singled, Pat Borders reached on an error and Pat Tabler walked in the only run.
April 30: Dave Winfield, representing the tying run, was out at the plate on Darryl Hamilton’s throw on Maldonado’s single to right in a 3-2 loss in Milwaukee. The Brewers scored three in the eighth against Duane Ward, the final run Franklin Stubbs stealing home.
May 1: Jimmy Key gave up a three-run homer to Greg Vaughn and a solo shot to Robin Yount in the seventh in a 4-3 loss.
May 2: Jack Morris gave up homers to Stubbs and Vaughn in a 5-4 loss, as Tabler had three hits.
May 3: Stieb tossed a complete game to beat the Brewers 4-1, thanks to back-to-back homers by Carter, and Winfield.
May 4: Stottlemyre, Ward and Henke combined to beat the A’s 7-3.
May 5: Juan Guzman moved to 4-0 as Carter and Kelly Gruber homered in a 5-1 win over the A’s.
Aug. 26, 1992
First place, two games up on the Orioles