This year, the tables were turned, with Grover and Carlos Baerga – who came with Alomar to the Indians in the trade for Joe Carter that sent the team into the stratosphere in the 1990s – presenting Alomar with the lifetime achievement award. And it was a big difference to Alomar.
“You see how much I’m sweating,” he said in a news conference at the awards in the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland.
Alomar was heralded at the annual awards for his service to Cleveland sports. He’s spent a total of 20 years with the Indians, first as an All-Star catcher (a replay of his home run in the 1997 Midsummer Classic at Progressive Field drew applause at the dinner) and most recently as an Indians coach. Alomar pointed out that in his time with the Indians, either behind home plate or as a coach, the Tribe has taken part in nine postseasons – something that seemed almost fantastic when he came with Baerga and Chris James from the Padres in a trade for the slugger Carter.
“One transaction changed my whole life,” Alomar said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we embraced the opportunity, and the fans embraced us.
“Cleveland has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Alomar was praised for his quiet leadership on and off the field during his playing days. “He was the guy who was here first,” Bart Swain said in the highlight film showed when he received his award.
“He didn’t have to say a lot,” Hargrove said.
In 1995, the Indians won the first of what turned out to be five straight American League Central Division titles – something that’s changed the culture of the franchise even to this day.
“The significance of us raising the banner was huge,” Alomar said, noting that he never tasted the postseason with any other team as a player or coach.
That year, he missed significant time with knee problems, but he made it a point to commend Hargrove for his faith in him.
“He backed me up in a tough time,” Alomar said, choking up on stage. “He said, ‘You’re going to come back.’”
Two years later, he had a 30-game hitting streak and was named the All-Star Game MVP after blasting the home run that made the difference in front of the hometown crowd. The trophy is with his son, along with other awards and Alomar’s tools of ignorance. “I’m proud my son keeps that alive,” Alomar said.
Alomar was asked about the current state of the Indians as well, and said Roberto Perez has distinguished himself as a defensive catcher. “I’m not afraid to have Perez as a catcher,” Alomar said.
Alomar regularly got interviews for managing jobs, but says he’s happy where he is in Cleveland. “I’m not losing sleep about a managing job.
“I just want to win a World Series.”
Photo: Cleveland Sports Awards