Standing near his old stomping ground at second base, Roberto Alomar gazed up at the crowd, smiled and said: “I would love to see every day so many fans.”He had, of course. Every time he and the Toronto Blue Jays played here in the early 1990s, there were crowds like this, every deck packed to watch their championship team, reports John Lott in The National Post.
Many of them were back on Sunday, some undoubtedly with their kids in tow, to honour Alomar as the Jays retired his Number 12 in a pre-game ceremony. The paid attendance was announced as 45,629, officially a sellout.
The first 20,000 received commemorative Alomar Hall of Fame bobbleheads.
The event took place before the Jays’ game against Texas, exactly one week after Alomar became the first player inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jay cap. He is the first Jay to have his number retired.
Alomar’s number, emblazoned on a blue banner with a Hall of Fame logo, was unfurled next to the Jays’ World Series flags high above centre field. Alomar was a star both at bat and afield for those championship teams of 1992 and 1993.
“Today I felt like a little boy,” he said after the ceremony. “I’ve been blessed that I had the chance to play for this organization. I always say it’s my second home. I’m proud to be Puerto Rican, and now I always say I’m half Puerto Rican and half Canadian.”
Along with his parents, about 20 of Alomar’s family members from his hometown of Salinas, Puerto Rico, attended the festivities. Many also attended his Hall of Fame induction.
“They didn’t know how to express how good that feels,” he said. “But today, they are real proud. They got to meet the fans, they got to see how the Canadians love their son.”
Jays president Paul Beeston told the crowd it will be “many, many years” before the Jays retire another player’s number.
“There’s going to come a time when a young generation of fans come into the ballpark, and they’re going to see that Number 12, and they’re going to ask their parents, ‘What does Number 12 mean?’ ”Beeston said.
“And they’re going to say, ‘Why, that’s the number of Robbie Alomar, the greatest second baseman who ever played the game.’ ”
Sharing the stage with Alomar on a sun-drenched afternoon were former teammates Kelly Gruber, Duane Ward, Candy Maldonado, Devon White and Carlos Baerga. Current Jay John McDonald, who was Alomar’s teammate in Cleveland along with Baerga, was there too with a tribute from the 2011 team.
Also on hand were former manager Cito Gaston, who drew a huge round of applause from the crowd, and Alomar’s parents, Maria and Sandy Sr.
Video tributes came from former teammates Joe Carter, John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Tom Henke, along with Alomar’s older brother, Sandy Alomar Jr.
“When I was a little boy, I didn’t expect to have my number retired,” Alomar said. “I just play the game because I had a God-given talent.
“When I was traded to Toronto, I was blessed to come to play for a great city, a great organization, a great team and, to me, the greatest manager that I ever played for.”
He referred to Beeston, the team president then and now, as “second father.” Alomar embraced Beeston and Gaston warmly before he made his speech.
As he closed his speech to thunderous applause, Alomar said: “Toronto, one more time: thank you, I love you.”
For the original report go to http://sports.nationalpost.com/2011/07/31/huge-crowd-on-hand-to-see-alomars-number-12-retired/