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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

At Cayey festival, Roberto Alomar instructs kids on baseball & life

Photos by Alejandra M. Jover Tovar

By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar

Special to The Star

Little kids looked up at the man that most didn’t know but had heard about: he’s a baseball idol, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 and, with a serious face but kind smile, he spoke directly to them.

“Obey your parents,” he instructed a dozen children, who listened silently. “Do good, train hard, have discipline, and good things will come to you.”

The man was Roberto Alomar, considered one of the best second basemen in history and one of the many athletes who have brought glory and fame to Puerto Rico.

Alomar’s arrival was one of the highlights of this weekend’s Las Vegas Community Festival celebration in Cayey. Since Friday, hundreds of people from four sectors in the mountainous town (Guavate, Farallón, El Cedro and Las Vegas) had assembled for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic to celebrate with cultural, musical and sports events.

At the behest of the town’s mayor, Rolando Ortiz Velázquez, members of Cayey’s Sports Hall of Fame heeded the call. They organized Alomar’s visit as part of the festivities held at the José “Tati” Ríos sports facilities in Las Vegas.

Besides sporting events that included a boxing tournament, and domino and ping-pong competitions, the public enjoyed a musical festival and various cultural and touristic activities, boosting the local economy of an area known for its gastronomy centered around braised pork.

During Sunday’s baseball clinic, held under the shelter of a covered court in the middle of heavy rains, Alomar, the 10-time Gold Glove winner born in 1968 in the southern town of Ponce, gave a short baseball clinic to the Cayey little leaguers.

“You have four eyes,” he said to the children’s amusement. “Two on your face, one on your dominant ankle, and one on your upper torso that direct the ball to where it should go,” Alomar explained. “Always mind those four eyes, and you can’t lose.”

“I was one of you, in my little uniform, just like you,” the MLB career .300 hitter reminded them. “I had many dreams, many goals, but to reach those dreams, I had to work for them. Never say that you can’t do it.”

He twisted his torso effortlessly, and immediately, the children imitated the movement. His audience was raptly listening to the 54-year-old baseball great’s words and itching to try this newfound technique. Even their coach and leader of the Cayey Baseball League, Jesús Rosado, started reminding them of Alomar’s words and corrected their stance before throwing balls at a net or batting with the help of adolescent members of the Cayey’s Class A team and community volunteers.

“I always love to come to these activities because they’re good for the young people and the whole town,” Alomar said in an exclusive interview with the STAR. “These programs must be lauded; I thank the mayor of Cayey for this beautiful activity, and I feel proud to be a part of it.”

Remembering when he was as young as the kids he briefly coached yesterday, the former baseball player said, “I was lucky that my dad played baseball, and I was always involved.”

“That’s what I knew how to do; every human has a talent, be it baseball or other sports or some other career; we all have a calling, and we have to know how to find and nurture it,” he said.

One obstacle Alomar finds is that few people are willing to be coaches.

“The kid can’t make it by himself; he has to have someone beside him to learn and progress,” he said. “I always had that in Little League, and I want to ask the people to keep supporting Puerto Rico’s sports.”

“It fills me with happiness to see so many children smiling,” Alomar said with a laugh. “You always have to fill them with love; love reaches farther than baseball, and these [events] really make me happy.”

Asked how it feels now, as a Hall of Famer with an illustrious career to look back on, to be watching little kids just starting out in baseball and life, Alomar said: “That’s something so big, and you must work at it.”

“I haven’t stopped since I was five years old,” he said. “Life’s still going. I’m incredibly proud of my career and that my mother and father always supported me from day one, and that’s important in a human being’s development: it all starts at home. Now, what I have to do is help others.”

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