In Major League Baseball, there is only one living player past or present that you can say “he is the greatest of all time.” His name is Roberto Alomar. He was the greatest second baseman of all time.
Yes, he did win a bunch of gold gloves and silver sluggers and two World Championships etc. In the decade that had Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire hitting all those home runs, you had Alex Rodriguez telling the World that Robbie Alomar was the best player in baseball. Alomar proved A-Rod right by winning back to back World titles with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Alomar’s older brother, Sandy Jr. was no slouch himself. He was an all star catcher with Cleveland and his Daddy, Sandy Senior was an all star second baseman in the 1970s.
As a little boy the Alomars shadowed their dad around Yankee Stadium when he played for George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees.
For me, it was a wonderful time because when I was the team batboy and I got to play with the kids. Sometimes, I was actually asked by Sandy to babysit them when the parents would go out to dinner.
One evening, I had the Alomar kids and a young Barry Bonds along with his brother. The Bonds’ had a ping pong table in their living room and I will never forget how amazed I was watching Robbie and Barry playing against each other. It was like watching two Olympic Chinese ping pong players. You could see right there that no matter what sports these two kids got into, they would be great.
Today, Roberto and his dad Sandy are at the Yankees spring training facility running their Robbie Alomar/Blue Jays Fantasy camp. Last year some work was being done at the Blue Jays’ camp so Robbie asked me where should they go. I told him that I would ask the Yanks’ fantasy camp coordinator Julie Kramer if sharing the facility was a possibility and it worked out. The campers had the time of their lives and Sandy, Sr. told Roberto that this is the Yankee aura that he remembered from his days with the Bronx Bombers. Sandy explained that the class and legacy that is found here can’t be found anywhere else.
Robbie, who almost became a Yankee in the winter of 1995, (That’s a story for another day) was always a George Steinbrenner fan. They had a mutual respect for one another. When Robbie retired his last act as an active player was to sign a baseball to the Boss with an inscription that read, “My only regret was not playing for you!” That baseball sat on the Boss’s desk for a year. It was the only time that a non-Yankee had ever done something like that for him and I must add that Mr. Steinbrenner was quite touched.
Today, being the last day of the Alomar Sports Fantasy camp, I asked Robbie how was the week and he responded by saying that it was an incredible week for himself but more importantly for his campers. Alomar added that the campers got two situations for the price of one. They got to live out their fantasies with their Blue Jays heroes and they got to be on the same grounds of some of those great World Championship Yankee teams
Roberto and his dad, being the class individuals that they are, asked me if I would thank the Yankee organization and the Steinbrenner family for welcoming them with open arms.
On the last day of camp, I get sad because Sandy Alomar Sr. will always be a hero and a mentor to me and the baseball romantic in me always wonders how incredible it would’ve been had the great Roberto Alomar had played next to Derek Jeter to possibly form baseball’s greatest double play combination ever.
I think this was the vision that the Boss had in the winter of 1995.