"Look! It's Robbie!" Blue Jays infielder Kevin Vicuna said excitedly, pointing to a picture of Roberto Alomar in the children's book he was holding out for teammate Deiferson Barreto to look at. The book, titled The History of the Toronto Blue Jays, had been provided by a local elementary school for the players to read to students during their visit to local schools to encourage literacy as part of the Blue Jays' Bookin' It To The Ballpark reading program.
"He's a person that knows how to teach in a way that you learn fast," Vicuna said about Alomar. "He gains the confidence of the player very quickly, which is very important. The most important thing that he taught me is to always work harder than anyone else. To work like I'm the worst player to become the best player. He is a great role model."
Alomar visited Dunedin for a week in early May, working with the Dunedin Blue Jays players on both their fielding skills and their mindset as part of his role as a roving instructor for the Blue Jays organization. The Hall of Fame second baseman was on the field and in the dugout with the team each day of his visit to Dunedin, giving pointers as the infielders fielded ground balls in batting practice and offering advice throughout the games.
"I come here and try to help the kids be in the right mindset and give them advice about the game," Alomar said when asked about his goals as a roving instructor. "What I do most is work on their mindset, that we believe in them and that they should go out there and believe in themselves and great things are going to happen. My theory is to survive in this game, you have to believe in your talent."
Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggio, who is no stranger to Hall of Fame infielders given his heritage (his father Craig Biggio was a Hall of Fame second baseman), relished the opportunity to work with and learn from Alomar.
"Having the opportunity to talk about playing the position that he is considered the greatest at was a really cool experience. We talked about turning double plays, and he talked about simplifying the game and making it as easy as possible. This game can be really hard at times, and the easier you make it on yourself, it can really help your game."
As veteran of 17 Major League seasons, Alomar understands the rigors of the baseball season and tries to impress that upon the players he works with.
"This is not an easy game. You have to work hard every day if you want to accomplish something. You have to be ready physically always to play this game. You're going to get hit by the ball. You're going to get tired. You're going to get fatigued. You have to be prepared for all that."
Dunedin infielder Juan Kelly took Alomar's words on preparation to heart.
"I learned that if I'm prepared correctly, I can play through pain. I can play through being tired. If I get hit by a pitch, it will hurt but it will pass and I can continue playing."
As a roving instructor, Alomar has chosen to endure the rigors of a minor league season himself, traveling from affiliate to affiliate in the Blue Jays system to work with players. Although it's not the typical lifestyle for a Hall of Famer in retirement, it's one he hopes to continue to do for many years.
"I love the game. I love helping others. I appreciate every day that I do this. It's always fun when you help a young guy and in the end you can say you were a part of his success," Alomar said before letting himself reminisce a little on his playing days. "I will not lie, I would love to be playing the game. But knowing that I can't play the game anymore, I enjoy coming to the ballpark every day and enjoy being surrounded by the ballplayers. I'm just thinking about the moment and enjoying everything I do."
Beyond his work with Blue Jays prospects, Alomar keeps busy during his time away from the field. He has started his own bat company in Toronto, Alomar Baseball, and also runs a sports events company, Alomar Sports, that hosts different sporting events throughout the year to raise money for his Foundation 12 charity which supports youth baseball initiatives across Canada. Alomar also serves as a special advisor to the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
"My hands are full," Alomar said with a laugh about his busy schedule away from the Blue Jays. "I'm going to continue what I'm doing now, helping youth to stay on the right path so they can enjoy playing baseball. For me, I take pride in what I do and I love the game. By loving the game and liking to help others, I appreciate every day."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.