SURREY, BC – What could be better?
Toronto Blue Jays Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar took to the diamond at Whalley Athletic Park on Wednesday and joined the Canadian Women’s National Team on the second day of training camp before the squad heads to the IBAF Women’s Baseball World Cup in Miyazaki, Japan from September 1 to 7.
“Who wouldn’t want to work with Robbie Alomar?” Team Canada shortstop and Swift Current, Saskatchewan native Bradi Wall said. “He volunteers his time to come out with us and it’s a great experience. I try to absorb everything from him and absolutely everything he says, I want to take it all in. There’s always room to learn.”
One day after the national team hosted two-time All-Star outfielder Shawn Green to kick off the week of practices before departing for Tokyo on Friday morning, Alomar flew in to Vancouver just for the day with the Canadian women. He also came bearing gifts, offering each of the players and staff Baseball Canada hooded sweatshirts, made by Alomar Baseball.
After meeting two of the players and one of Team Canada’s coaches previously, and working together with them for the Blue Jays Baseball Academy, it wasn’t hard to convince Alomar that Surrey was a must-stop destination amidst his travels around the country and between camps for the academy.
“I was talking to [team manager] Andre [Lachance] at the Baseball Canada [banquet and fundraiser in January] and he mentioned coming here to help the girls,” Alomar said. “Now that I know Ashley [Stephenson], Autumn [Mills] and Sam [Magalas], they asked me if I could be available for the day. So I came for the day to teach a few things and here I am.”
Alomar spent the morning working specifically with the team’s infielders, offering the wisdom he picked up over 17 big-league seasons with the San Diego Padres, Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks, including 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger Awards during that time.
“It’s been a great experience,” Wall said. “Robbie is so knowledgeable, being in the majors, playing with the Blue Jays, and winning the World Series twice, he’s just absorbed absolutely everything in. What he says, it makes sense – keep the game simple, play hard, throw hard, and just focus on the little things.
“It’s a great experience playing with him. He’s fun, he’s easy to talk to, and he just helps you in anything you want. Ask him questions and he’ll answer absolutely everything.”
Alomar was impressed and somewhat amazed at the high calibre of talent out on the field in the Canadian women’s team, who will be competing in the sixth World Cup event for Team Canada. At the most recent event in Edmonton in 2012, the Canadian women earned a bronze medal, adding to two other bronze medals and a silver in previous World Cup competition.
“It surprised me,” he said. “They have really good talent here. The way they go about their work and the way they do things was a surprise. They’re really good.”
The native of Puerto Rico was especially impressed by the infielders, including Wall, third baseman Stephenson, and second baseman Nicole Luchanski, after getting a chance to work with them more closely.
“It’s great and they’re doing a great job,” Alomar said. “They really listen and I like their work ethic. They’re working hard and they understand the game. To be able to perform, you have to at least listen and understand, and then try to work on the things that we’re telling them to do, and they are great.”
After joining the Junior National Team in March as a guest instructor for the squad’s spring training trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, Alomar has continued to be active within the Canadian baseball community, and shows no signs of slowing down.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Alomar said. “I’m devoted to Baseball Canada now that I’m here. I just want to help and I want to give back what I learned from the game and what people like my dad [Sandy Alomar] and the other players taught me. Now, it’s time for me to give back to them.”
IBAF Women’s World Cup website