Alomar's assistance pays off for Blue Jays
Hall of Fame second baseman has worked with Toronto's DP combo
TORONTO -- For Luis Rivera, it was an idea that just made sense. Earlier in May, as he continued his daily work with the Blue Jays' makeshift middle infield, Rivera -- Toronto's third-base coach and infield instructor -- figured the duo of Emilio Bonifacio and Munenori Kawasaki could benefit from the tutoring of another former big league infielder employed by the organization.
And so Rivera asked Roberto Alomar, a longtime friend and former teammate, if he'd be interested in providing some instruction. After all, the Hall of Famer -- who serves as a special advisor to the organization -- is at the ballpark on most days. And he also happens to be one of the best second basemen to play the game. Alomar said he was happy to do it.
"I went down, and we worked on some things they needed to work on," said Alomar, who spent five seasons in Toronto during his playing days, helping the team win back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and '93. "We went through the double play ... the footwork, the flip and making the throw to first. A lot of the time when we're on the outside, we can see things a player can't see. So I just gave them my thoughts, they worked on things, and I think they've done a good job since then."
If the immediate results were any indication, it was a successful tutorial. Last Wednesday, Kawasaki and Bonifacio executed an important double play in the 10th inning of an eventual 4-3 walk-off win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The previous night, the duo turned four double plays as Alomar watched from his Rogers Centre suite. TV cameras caught him showing his enthusiasm.
With Jose Reyes likely out until later this month, Kawasaki and Bonifacio will continue to man the middle for the Blue Jays, who entered play Wednesday ranked 12th in the American League with a .984 fielding percentage.
There is room for improvement defensively, and Alomar says he'd be open to providing further instruction alongside Rivera, whom he has known since the two formed a double-play combination in the Puerto Rican Winter League when Alomar was just a 17-year-old in his first season of pro ball.
"Sure I would, if I'm invited [by Rivera]," Alomar said. "I'm always here. I work for the organization, and I'm a Blue Jay for life."
It seems like a natural fit -- a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner offering his advice to today's Blue Jays infielders. And so, too, does Alomar's role with the organization in which he spent his best years as a player.
The reuniting of the second baseman with the Blue Jays perhaps began to take form when he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010. During his speech in St. Mary's, Ontario, Alomar made clear his desire to return to the organization in some capacity.
It didn't take long for Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and the front office to make that a reality, and in 2011, they welcomed Alomar back into the organization as a special advisor. Now in his third year in that role, the former 12-time All-Star has embraced his responsibilities, which include both baseball operations duties and work in the community.
On the baseball ops side, he has served as an instructor during Spring Training and works with Blue Jays Minor Leaguers at instructional camps and throughout the season. With the Minor Leaguers, Alomar says he's often focused on developing the mental side of the game.
"This game is 90 percent mental, and I think if we can help them believe in themselves and have confidence -- and to relax and enjoy the game -- a lot of great things can happen."
It's a similar message that he preaches when working in the community side of his role with the organization, serving as an instructor with the Blue Jays Baseball Academy at various camps and events across Canada. Last weekend, Alomar joined a host of former Blue Jays players in Waterloo, Ontario, at a Honda Super Camp for kids age 9-16. He's scheduled to take part in nine such camps this summer.
"It's an honour to be part of it, giving back to the kids and teaching them the basics," he said. "When I was a kid, I was surrounded by big league ballplayers. Most kids don't have that opportunity, so it's important to me. Hopefully these kids will take some of our teaching into their own games and lives."
There's no question Alomar wears the Blue Jays logo with pride. The native of Puerto Rico says he's always considered Canada a "second home," and there was a reason he wanted to enter the Hall of Fame as a Toronto Blue Jay.
"I have a lot of respect for all the teams I played for, but my heart has always been here," he said. "This is where I won two World Series and played for the best manager [Cito Gaston] I ever played for. I have a good relationship with Paul Beeston. ... He's like my second dad. The organization and the fans have always been there for me."
And Alomar is committed to the organization. Whether it's providing instruction to the club's infielders or helping to develop young talent in the Minor Leagues, Alomar says he's willing to do anything he can to help the organization succeed. As for his goal in his role as a special advisor, he says it's the same as that of the club:
"My personal goal," Alomar said, "is to help this team to win another World Series."
Todd Devlin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.