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Alomar Jr. receives prestigious Cleveland honor

Indians legend recognized with lifetime achievement award
MLB.com @MandyBell02

CLEVELAND -- Three years ago, Sandy Alomar Jr. took the stage at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to his former manager Mike Hargrove. But this year, the roles were reversed.

It was a moment for Alomar to take the spotlight. As he sat with those in attendance of the 19th annual Greater Cleveland Sports Awards banquet, he watched a montage of highlights from his playing career along with recent clips of him impacting the Cleveland community. The video ended and a roaring applause overtook the Renaissance Hotel ballroom. Alomar stepped on the stage to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award of his own, but quickly drew the attention away from himself.

CLEVELAND -- Three years ago, Sandy Alomar Jr. took the stage at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to his former manager Mike Hargrove. But this year, the roles were reversed.

It was a moment for Alomar to take the spotlight. As he sat with those in attendance of the 19th annual Greater Cleveland Sports Awards banquet, he watched a montage of highlights from his playing career along with recent clips of him impacting the Cleveland community. The video ended and a roaring applause overtook the Renaissance Hotel ballroom. Alomar stepped on the stage to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award of his own, but quickly drew the attention away from himself.

About 20 minutes prior, a local 15-year-old high school freshman, Sophia Pecjak, told her story of how she's overcome heart complications to get back to participating in competitive sports. Now, while many would get lost in a moment that was designed to be dedicated to themselves, Alomar showed exactly why he's beloved in this community as soon as he grabbed the microphone.

"Sophia, the girl who was just here, what a moving story," Alomar said as soon as he got on stage. "It's not just about a sport, it's about life. The story we just heard was very moving. Continued success and keep it going."

After another round of applause, Alomar settled in and allowed himself to enjoy his own moment. Along with Hargrove, former teammate Carlos Baerga was also there to present him with this honor. The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a person who, through their personal dedication and achievements, has advanced sports in Cleveland.

Tweet from @CLESports: "Cleveland is a place filled with legends, this is a city full of hard working people" - Sandy Alomar Jr. #CLESportsAwards pic.twitter.com/3e9Vue5zJX

"It's a very humbling moment," Alomar said. "The advice and everything that my mom and dad taught me when I was a kid paid big dividends in my career. And one of the things they always said was, 'Whatever you do, you got to care. You got to care because if you care, all the other values are going to come into play.' And trust me. Everything that I did with was with care. I wanted to make a difference everywhere I went."

Prior to the 1990 season, Baerga and Alomar were part of a franchise-defining trade that shipped Joe Carter to the Padres in exchange for the pair, who helped establish a solid foundation for Cleveland's incredible '90s teams.

"What a difference, that one move could change my life forever," Alomar said. "That one transaction that gave me an opportunity of a lifetime was able to open a door for us to bring younger people and also to get a new stadium."

Alomar also showed his gratitude for Hargrove's presence on the stage and throughout his career.

"I can't thank him enough. He backed me up in the rough times when I was hurt with my knees, when I had the microfracture and I didn't even know if I'd be able to play baseball again," Alomar said as he fought back tears. "It touches me, because he said, 'You're going to come back.' And I did. And I played many years later."

Alomar spent 11 seasons catching for the Tribe from 1990-2000 and was a six-time All-Star. He was the 33rd player to be inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 2009. As an Indian, he hit .277 with 92 homers and 453 RBIs in 985 games and his 950 games behind the plate are the third-most in club history.

Alomar said one of his fondest memories of his playing career in Cleveland was winning the 1997 All-Star Game MVP Award after launching a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that ultimately allowed the American League to walk away victorious. After he was presented his trophy, his son, Marcus, jumped onto the field to greet him.

"That was a precious moment because you're talking about family, right?" Alomar said. "Family bonding. My son jumped on the field, took my trophy in the '97 All-Star Game. That's a great memory."

Video: NAS@AAS: Alomar wins it for AL with two-run homer

With the Midsummer Classic returning to Cleveland in 2019, Alomar said he would enjoy seeing a tribute to honor how special the last All-Star Game was in northeast Ohio.

"I'm just going to say I don't expect things in return, but that would be kind of classy if they do it," Alomar said.

Corey Kluber and Jose Ramirez were both nominated for the Professional Athlete of the Year, but were beat out by NFL rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield of the Browns.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.

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