CLEVELAND — In the winter of 1989, the Indians and San Diego Padres completed a single trade, which happened to send young catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. to the Indians.
Alomar, speaking at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards nearly three decades after that fateful trade, looked back on it as one of the most fortunate events of his life.
Alomar was present to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, given annually to someone who, through personal dedication and achievements, has advanced sports in Cleveland.
“I’m honored to be part of Cleveland,” Alomar said standing next to presenters Mike Hargrove and Carlos Baerga. “Cleveland has been the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Alomar spent 11 seasons with the Indians as a player, winning the American League Rookie of the Year in 1990 and earning six All-Star selections. He helped the Indians win five consecutive AL Central titles between 1995-1999 and owns two of the most memorable moments in Jacobs Field/Progressive Field history, both coming in 1997 when he first homered in the All-Star Game and then when he belted a home run off Mariano Rivera in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. He currently serves as the Indians’ first base/catching coach.
Alomar has also been supportive of and active with Cleveland Clinic’s VeloSano program, a community-driven, fundraising initiative aided through bicycling events.
He was joined Wednesday night at the Cleveland Renaissance Hotel with his wife, Margred; his daughter, Marisa; and his son, Marcus.
“It’s a very humbling moment,” he said. “I started in Puerto Rico when I was a kid. The advice and everything that my mom and dad taught me when I was a kid paid big dividends in my career. And one of the things they always said was, ‘Whatever you do, you gotta care. You gotta care because if you care, all the other values are going to come into play.’ And trust me. Everything that I did with was with care. I wanted to make a difference everywhere I went.”
Alomar, becoming emotional for a bit, went on to thank Hargrove for his support while Alomar dealt with numerous injuries and knee issues that nearly ended his career.
“I can’t thank [Hargrove] enough,” he said. “He backed me up in rough times when I was hurt with my knees, when … I didn’t even know if I’d be able to play baseball again. Grover — it touches me, because he said, ‘You’re going to come back.’ And I did.”
Alomar finished his acceptance speech speaking to the success the Indians have had, both from the ‘90s and in recent years.
“I’ve been here 20 years as a player and coach and I’ve been in nine postseasons,” Alomar said. “So we’re talking about the Yankees and Dodgers — we’re good here, too. We are good. And let me tell you something. Many good things are coming to Cleveland. Many good things.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.