“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
As Ray Negron and I boarded a train back to New York, Sandy Alomar Sr. was catching a flight back to his home in Puerto Rico. All of us shared, amongst many others, an extremely inspiring Fantasy Baseball Camp collaboratively with the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays/Alomar Sports in Tampa, Florida. Negron, who was instrumental in bringing these teams together due to the reconstruction efforts in Dunedin, Spring Training home for the Jays, started to reminisce about Alomar. It was clear that there were mixed feelings of happiness and sadness as he reflected about his relationship with Sandy Alomar Sr. “in the early days” and having to say goodbye again to a life-long friend that he has known for over 44 years. I, too, felt those mixed feelings after only one week of a baseball camp for men and women wanting to live a baseball dream. Although I am forever grateful and blessed that I met Mr. Alomar, a twinge of sadness crept over me. When you meet someone that truly is a Godly man and a person that sacrifices his life for others, including his children, you never want to leave that person. Mr. Alomar changed my thinking about life in mere days. Yes, he taught me some “behind the scenes” baseball skills, but more importantly, he further inspired me to always help others because God put us on this earth to teach our children well, at ALL times. Negron reflected, “Sandy was one of my first mentors in baseball in 1974. I was only 17. He taught me everything that I know now. He showed me how to always help others, especially the children. Most of the things were not between the white-lines, but far beyond Yankee Stadium. Without prompting from this writer, Negron went on to state,” Roberto Clemente was an amazing man who has inspired millions around the world.” However, it is Sandy Alomar Sr. that had single-handedly mentored and nurtured thousands of children in Puerto Rico. His relentless determination and true devotion to help others, healed many families within baseball circles and beyond, including former major leaguers ’s Alex (2018 World Champion Rookie Red Sox Manager) and Joey Cora. Truly, he is the ultimate mentor from Puerto Rico. Check that, he is one of Baseball’s greatest ambassadors.”
When Alomar Sr, was asked how he felt being at the Yankee Spring Training complex, he quickly replied. “I began to immediately think about George and Billy sitting in the stands overlooking the action. I then thought about all the great Yankee players and personnel that I had the blessing of knowing. Seeing Chris Chambliss, Mickey Rivers, Ray Negron and Al Downing again after many years was extremely satisfying and brought me right back to those Yankee teams.” Alomar Sr. continued his reflection,” Although, I was an All-Star with the Angels in 1970, coming to the Yankees in 1974 was my most gratifying baseball playing experiences ever. Being the guy who was on deck for Chris Chambliss’s Dramatic 1976 ALCS walk-off homerun that catapulted the Yankees to get back into the World Series after 18 years was a chance of a life-time.” Describing his closest Yankee teammates, he stated, “Some of them were Mickey Rivers, Chris Chambliss, Roy White, Ed Figueroa and Thurman Munson.” He then shared “I did have a strong bond with Thurman Munson, who I met in Puerto Rico during Winter Ball.”
Willie Randolph, great second baseman for the New York Yankees from 1976-1988( 6 time all-star,6 time World Series Champion, and Yankee Co-Captain :1986-1988) and who was named the New York Mets manager(2005-2008) in 2005 was asked via telephone from his New Jersey home to describe why Sandy Alomar Sr. was the first person he contacted to be his bench coach when hired by the Mets. He eagerly responded, “Sandy was my mentor when I came to the Yankees in 1976. He was always teaching me the nuances of the game. Even though I took over the second base job from him that year, he made sure that I was mentally and physically prepared game in and game out. Sandy is a class act, through and through.”
Chris Chambliss, another Yankee hero(Player:1974-1979;1988/Batting Coach: 1996-2000) who was an instructor at the Yankees Fantasy Camp and reunited with Sandy Alomar Sr. at George M. Steinbrenner Field for its opening dinner reception, enthusiastically stated, “ If I had ever gotten the chance to manage, Sandy was going to be my bench coach. No one could have been better.” The two former teammates along with Mickey Rivers enjoyed some laughs over dinner that night. Clearly, talking about the old “Bronx Zoo” days.
Alomar, who played 15 remarkable years in the Major leagues for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves(1964-1966), New York Mets(1967), Chicago White Sox (1967-1969), California Angels(1969- 1974;All-Star in 1970), New York Yankees(1974-1976) and Texas Rangers (1977-1978), also coached for several Major League Teams. These teams included: San Diego Padres (1986-1990), Chicago Cubs (2000-2002), Colorado Rockies (2003-2004) and the New York Mets (2005-2009). In 1970, his All-Star year, Alomar Sr. played the full 162 game schedule leading the league with 735 plate appearances, batting .251 and stealing 35 bases. However, when he was asked what was his greatest baseball moment as he was shouting out support and encouragement to the fantasy camp players on the field from the dugout, he did not hesitate to respond. “The light of my life was being at the All-Star game at Wrigley Field with my kids Roberto and Sandy Jr. on July 10, 1990. I will never forget that day. My proudest moment ever. It’s about pride and how it affects you so you can teach others. I thank God for that ultimate blessing.” When I complimented him on raising two amazing athletes, he immediately stopped me, “Stevie, I give my wife, Maria all the credit in the world because she was with them. I do not like to ever take credit. She taught them a lot. When I was away with my baseball career, she did everything and I thank God we were blessed.”
As the camp came to a close, there was a wonderful dinner/award reception given by the Blue Jays at a five-star restaurant in Clearwater. There were approximately 100 guests including many former Blue Jays star players/coaches, Blue Jay officials and all the Fantasy Baseball campers. Negron and I had the distinct honor of sitting at the same table as Sandy Alomar Sr. As the presentations were occurring, the final presentation of this fun- loving, jubilant night, was given by Roberto Alomar. Roberto, who was inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame as a Toronto Blue Jay in 2011, received a standing ovation before uttering a single word. Clearly, his love and affection for everyone in the room and from them to him was immediately sincere and heartfelt. It was a moment that was not scripted nor rehearsed. A moment of a man being humbled by a shared camp experience that will remain in the hearts of everyone. Although, he shared many stories, the focus of his 10 minute presentation was teaching us all that we need to ALWAYS help our children, individuals that are challenged with a disability and to never forget the people that helped us along the way. He then turned his attention to a high-ranking Blue Jay official who was sitting at a table with his wife. We quickly learned that this gentleman has been afflicted with Cancer. During that emotionally-charged, tearful moment, Roberto Alomar thanked him and his family and vowed to ALWAYS be there for them. Again, the entire room stood up with a thunderous applause, including his” proud papi,” Sandy Alomar Sr. Wiping away his tears, Alomar Sr. shared, “See, that’s what it’s all about. It has nothing to do with baseball. We are all God’s Children.” I am so very proud of Robbie and my entire family.”
I then remembered how he was sharing with me about pride and teaching others on the baseball field several days prior. I then asked him to specifically share his intimate thoughts. Alomar Sr. replied, “It’s about Pride-Will- Respect-Discipline-Knowledge-Understanding-Awareness-Anticpation-Reaction. “ He then swiftly conceptualized his thoughts as he was standing with others clapping for his son, “ I have reaction cause I have anticipation, I have anticipation because I have awareness, I have awareness because I have understanding, I have understanding because I have knowledge, I have knowledge because I have discipline, I have discipline because I have respect, I have respect because I have a will and I have a will because I have pride. This is all so that you can be the best you can possibly be.”
“When you face three of the toughest pitchers of all-time, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer and Sandy Koufax,” Alomar Sr. began to explain, “you need have Pride-Will-Respect-Discipline-Knowledge-Understanding-Awareness-Anticipation and Reaction to survive against those Hall of famers. Yes, you have to have the God-given physical ability to play baseball and to immediately visual track each pitch from the pitchers hand. The game however, is mostly mental. This my friend, transpires into the real world.”
Thank you Sandy Alomar Sr. for sharing your incredible wisdom and enduring passion to significantly help and inspire us all. From this day forward, I will have a greater sense of self pride so that I can follow your vision to unconditionally empower others, especially the children, to be the very “best they can possibly be.” May God bless you and your entire family always.