By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
The most common expression a Hall of Famer hears no matter who he is, no matter where he is, no matter what he is doing:
“Could you sign?” as a baseball, hat or program is extended his way.
The most oft-repeated phrase to Blue Jays Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar?
“Probably it’s ‘thank you,’” said Alomar, commissioner of Tournament 12, the eight-team third annual gathering of high schoolers from coast to coast.
A year-round resident of Toronto Alomar gets thank-yous all the time.
“Dalton Pompey thanked me for what I do for kids, his family thanked me,” said Alomar. “Andrew Case thanked me after we signed him in 2013.”
Pompey opened and closed this season in the Toronto Blue Jays outfield, while his brother Tristan played in the 2014 event, is enrolled at the University of Kentucky and wore Canada across his chest at the 18U World Cup.
Case was signed after dominating opponents helping the Atlantic win the inaugural T12 and is pitching at class-A Vancouver this season.
Alomar says “a lot of kids and parents come up to me and say ‘thank you for the opportunity, thank you for giving back to the game of baseball.’”
The Hall of Famer said when the T12 concept began “we didn’t know how it would work.”
“More and more players are interested in coming to the tryouts,” said Alomar, who was quick to credit “his team.”
Canadian scouting director Jamie Lehman evaluates, while Rob Jack, T.J. Burton, Jon Cram and Jake Paddle of the Baseball Academy organized the T12 tryout camps.
And it doesn’t matter whether it was a T12 tryout or a Honda Super camp memories are made as youngsters learn from members of Alomar’s team headed up by Duane Ward, as the Hall of Famer says “it’s not all Alomar.”
Alomar grew up in major-league clubhouses -- the California Angels, New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers -- tagging along his father Sandy, a teammate of Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Frank Robinson and Catfish Hunter plus others.
“I never lost those memories,” said Alomar. “When I go to these tryouts it’s like when I went.”
Alomar works with individuals, but he’ll look over one shoulder and see a youngster talking hitting with Jesse Barfield, former American League home run champ, a pitcher listening to Duane Ward, outfielders getting pointers from Devon White and Lloyd Moseby and someone else taking ground balls with Homer Bush or Mario Diaz.
And Alomar says “I am so lucky my dad is with me all the time.”
People should be thanking Alomar. Year I he flew in two players who couldn’t afford the cost of the flight from British Columbia. Then, he took it a step forward going to the Jays Care Foundation appealing to make it more affordable to every Canadian. It now costs $350 player.
“I have been blessed with this opportunity, I’m willing to teach and have the patience,” said Alomar, who admits while he’s not a scout, he knows players.
“Once in a while I’ll say, hey what do you think of that guy?” Alomar said.
A picture of the defending champion Quebec team hangs in Alomar’s Rogers Centre suite near the picture of 2013 champs from the Maritimes, yet the energetic Alomar has plans.
He hopes to one day take T12 to Puerto Rico, to have one on the west coast of Canada and some day a Junior T12.
“When the player is 14-to-16 years of age, the worst thing you can do is kill his confidence, you can’t put someone 14 against a guy headed to college,” the commissioner said, “there are some guys who need more work. We can say ‘he should be in the junior tournament.’
“We want to teach the young guys baseball sense, so when they have the big opportunity they are ready.”
The commissioner is not putting limits on the upper age.
“Andrew Case was 20 when he was in the tournament, he was signed, maybe the guy was playing in Newfoundland and the scouts didn’t see him,” said Alomar, the year-round resident of Toronto and cross-country ambassador. The organization’s “rock star,” as Stephen Brooks described him last year.
“I see the guys wearing a Tournament 12 shirt, listening to our alumni guy ... if I was a kid, it would be a memory that would stick with me until the day I leave this earth.”
So, if you get the chance when you see him again ... as many did droping by his front-row seats -- thank the commissioner.