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Taking pride in line, Alomar gives to Jays Care

Hall of Fame second baseman promotes new equipment for a good cause
Special to

LONDON, Ont. -- When Roberto Alomar embarks on a venture, he fully embraces it.

There's no one who stands behind -- and in front of -- his name better than the Hall of Fame second baseman. He did just that on Saturday as he reintroduced Alomar Baseball, his new line of baseball equipment, at Home Run Sports.

LONDON, Ont. -- When Roberto Alomar embarks on a venture, he fully embraces it.

There's no one who stands behind -- and in front of -- his name better than the Hall of Fame second baseman. He did just that on Saturday as he reintroduced Alomar Baseball, his new line of baseball equipment, at Home Run Sports.

"It's something that I always wanted to do," Alomar said of launching his brand. "Now that I'm away from the game, I wanted to stay involved with the game. I always wanted to have my own line -- and not just a line, but I wanted to have some good product. These are things that I believe in, and to me, it's been great.

"I always wanted to do that, but the most important thing is that with every purchase, some of the proceeds go to the Jays Care Foundation. They do so many great things for the city and for the whole country of Canada."

At Saturday's event, fans were asked to make a donation to the Jays Care Foundation as they received autographs from and snapped several pictures with Alomar. The donations collected in just over two hours of signing totalled just under $1,000. From regular sales of the top-of-the-line Alomar Baseball products, $3 from each bat will be donated to the foundation, as well as $5 from each glove. Alomar is excited to be able to give back, not only to Jays Care, but also to continue his growth within the game north of the border.

"Being around it for the last four or five years, I love it," Alomar said of Canadian baseball. "There's a lot of talent here and there are people who really care, especially the kids who are really involved in baseball. I know people love hockey but I want people to love this game, too.

"When I came [to Canada] back in 1991, my first year, they supported me since Day 1, so now it's time for me to support them. Hopefully they can enjoy my line."

Alomar has always had an interest in the grass roots level of the Canadian game. It has only increased through each of the Honda Super Camps, and quickly accelerated during Tournament 12, named for the retired number of the former infielder.

"[Tournament 12] means a lot to me, because I can see in the kids' faces how happy they are just to be in the [Rogers Centre] playing baseball," Alomar said. "When they asked me about it, right away I said, 'Yes.' I want to be a part of it, I want to be there; I want to mingle with the kids. And it's not only to be the face, it's just to be involved in the whole program."

Taking his involvement one step further, Alomar will soon suit up in the red and white as a guest coach for Canada's junior national team during their spring trip to Florida.

"It's really important to be involved in every phase of the game," he said. "Especially from the young kids all the way to the junior team and all the way to the big leagues. I learned a lot about the game through my youth. I was gifted to play the game, and now it's time for me to give my knowledge to those kids who need it.

"It was an honour for me when they told me I was going to be a part of the junior team as an honorary coach. I'm looking forward to that and hopefully they can use the Alomar line and hopefully we can win."

The native of Puerto Rico has found nothing but success throughout the building process of his equipment line. While he has had assistance along the way from several different people and organizations, he has been sure to keep his hands on everything the entire time.

"The main thing was to find the right people to be on my team, the Alomar team," he said. "Jason [Cohn] and Morgan [Matthews, directors of Alomar Baseball], they have helped me to create my line. And I am 100 percent into my line. I designed the gloves, I designed the bats, and so far it's been great.

"I have to give thanks to Home Run Sports, who have been great and so supportive in letting me be part of their family. Also, the Jays; the Jays' organization has been so great to me. I've been blessed."

Alomar Baseball's partnership with Home Run Sports began in January, when the Blue Jays hosted their most recent coaching clinic. Tony Carnelos, a representative of the equipment store, has been impressed with Alomar's ability to delve into the business world and his eagerness to be continually involved.

"We talked about their product and what we could do [in January] and the relationship just grew from there," Carnelos said. "He's great to deal with -- very reasonable, very level-headed, very giving in a way. For example, he just said, 'Hey I'll come down on a Saturday and sign in your store in London, no problem.' He's been so cooperative on every part of it. He's been great."

Added Alomar: "If you are going to be involved in this business, you have to be very personal with it. I don't want to just be the face. I want to mingle and shake people's hands, and if people buy an item, I want to be there. I want to be with the fans; I want to be with the people. I don't want to be just a guy who's going to talk about it and not be there."

The Hall of Famer was very much with the fans on Saturday. One excited woman couldn't wait to tell her friends that Alomar had recognized the fact that she had tweeted him and made mention of it as she posed with him for a picture. A young autograph seeker was elated to show off the "12" he recently had shaved into the back of his haircut for the occasion.

Alomar was happy to embrace one couple's baby, letting them know that it was good practice for when his first child will be welcomed into the world. His genuine interest in each and every person made the hour-and-a-half lineup worth the wait.

"The most rewarding thing is just to be around the people," Alomar said. "I think they enjoy it, but I enjoy it more. … That's something my family -- my father and my mom -- always taught me right. You can have all the money in the world, but if you're not humble, you will not get anywhere. Being humble is who I am, and I've been taught real well by my family."

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to

Toronto Blue Jays