An excellent evening spent with Roberto Alomar

Kitchener’s Themuseum has hosted “An Evening With…” series of talks for some time now. Though the speaker series has hosted a variety of people, there seems to be an emerging baseball theme. Last year, they brought in Fergie Jenkins, the only Canadian in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Rumour is that Toronto Blue Jays pitching great Roy Halladay will appear in the near future. But Monday, May 6 saw the only player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Jays uniform: Roberto Alomar.

Alomar is widely regarded as one of, if not the greatest, Blue Jay of all time. Son of major league journeyman second baseman Sandy Alomar, Roberto was an emerging young star when he was traded to the Blue Jays in 1990 from the San Diego Padres along with outfielder Joe Carter for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernández. Alomar spent five years with the Jays, developing into a superstar and playing an integral part in the team’s World Series wins in 1992 and 1993. Already a highlight-reel defender, Alomar helped redefine the position of second baseman from a purely defensive position to a more balanced one as he blossomed into an elite hitter with the Jays.

Interviewing Alomar was Dave Bidini, another important figure in early 1990s Canada. One of the founders of Canadian indie/alternative tastemakers Rheostatics, Bidini has since branched out into other areas. Bidini has written columns for the <em>Toronto Star</em> and currently writes for the <em>National Post</em>, and has published 12 books covering music, travel, and sports. He has been nominated for Gemini, Genie, Juno, and Canada Reads awards.

After a brief introduction by Themuseum CEO David Marskell, Bidini and Alomar took the stage. Bidini introduced himself and explained his deep love of baseball, the Jays, and Alomar&rsquo;s work. He talked about listening to the games on radio while touring across Canada in a van, and how he and bandmate Tim Vesely ruined a friends&rsquo; roadside hike when they scared off a curious deer while cheering for Alomar&rsquo;s season-saving home run off of Oakland&rsquo;s Dennis Eckersley in 1992.

&ldquo;We were a young band starting out, baseball was always there to comfort us,&rdquo; said Bidini. &ldquo;No matter how lonely, uncertain about our careers and our lives heading out across Canada, the Jays were always there, and baseball was always there on the radio.&rdquo;

Bidini and Alomar spoke at length on Alomar&rsquo;s career and childhood, the cultural impact of the Jays in the early &lsquo;90s, and the Hall of Fame. Afterwards, the audience was allowed to ask questions.

Bidini opened the questions by asking who Alomar idolized as a child. &ldquo;Even though I don&rsquo;t want to say the Yankees, my father played for the Yankees,&rdquo; Alomar said, to chuckles. &ldquo;Bobby Mercer &hellip; Mickey Rivers, Billy Martin the manager, Thurman Munson, I can name you a lot of them. Then my father played for the Angels for seven years, so I had the chance to talk to Nolan Ryan and many others.&rdquo;

&ldquo;I was the kid that always asked questions, because I always wanted to be good at this game. One thing that my dad taught me is that if you want to learn from this game, always ask questions. Knowing I had that opportunity, being surrounded by major league baseball, I used to ask a lot of questions.&rdquo;

When asked about why he played second base, Alomar mentioned his father, but said that he was actually originally signed as a shortstop. When the Padres asked him if he could play second base due to an opening in the major leagues, he said yes.

Bidini and Alomar spoke on the trade that brought him to Toronto, the current state of the Jays (&ldquo;hopefully we get to that point again, where we get the fans back and we start winning&rdquo;), his charity work (&ldquo;we as ball players who&rsquo;ve retired, we need to give more back to the community, we need to help the youth a little bit more&rdquo;), and a myriad of other topics.

The questions from the audience included queries about his favourite players (he really liked Omar Vizquel), some of his biggest moments, and his life in Toronto, where he has a family and now works as a special advisor to the Jays. After the talk, Alomar greeted and signed autographs for fans.

Themuseum, now in its fourth year since rebranding from the Waterloo Regional Children&rsquo;s Museum, is a local non-profit organization that holds a number of interactive exhibits and regularly welcomes travelling exhibitions. The &ldquo;An Evening With&hellip;&rdquo; series brings speakers from a diverse array of fields to Kitchener as a method of fundraising for the museum and other charities. Alomar is just the latest in a line of guests that includes CBC&rsquo;s Jian Ghomeshi, film producer Jon Landau, hockey hero Cassie Campbell, and sex expert Sue Johanson.