Puerto Rico celebrates Alomar's HOF election

Puerto Rico celebrates Alomar's HOF election

Puerto Rico celebrates Alomar's HOF election
Roberto Alomar joined baseball's most elite class on Wednesday afternoon, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America elected him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility.

The honor is even more special when considering where Alomar comes from.

Before he became one of the greatest second basemen of all-time, Alomar honed his craft as a teenager in Puerto Rico. Now, he is one of three Hall of Famers born on the tiny island where baseball is king, joining Orlando Cepeda and the late Roberto Clemente.

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"It's amazing that this island so small has three Hall of Famers, and more to come," Cepeda said in a phone interview with MLB.com from the capital city of San Juan. "As a Puerto Rican, I feel very proud, because it's such a small island that has produced so many great players. That's an honor as a Puerto Rican. I'm very proud."

Cepeda was friends with Alomar's father, Sandy, and has known Alomar since he was a little kid in Salinas. On Sunday, Cepeda and Alomar are planning to meet for dinner on their native land.

But before that, Puerto Rico will celebrate on its own.

"At 3 o'clock, everything here stopped just to hear the announcement," said White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, also calling from Puerto Rico.

"It's special. It's very special for Puerto Ricans. He made us all proud, not only today. Robbie Alomar has always made us proud with the way he conducted himself. He made all Puerto Ricans proud to be a Puerto Rican."

A capacity crowd of about 300 filled the Puerto Rico Sports Museum in Guaynabo and gawked at a giant TV screen tuned in to MLB Network. There, Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez -- who was with the Padres when Alomar was coming through the system in the 1980s -- stood among an array of media members and a handful of distinguished Latin American ballplayers, such as Tony Perez, Ed Figueroa and Jose Cruz.

At 2 p.m. ET, when MLB Network announced Alomar was voted in along with Bert Blyleven, the day-long celebration in Puerto Rico peaked. And a half-hour later, Rodriguez and several others were able to speak with Alomar via conference call.

"It means a lot because the players that are playing at this time, they didn't have a chance to watch Roberto Clemente or maybe they didn't have a chance to watch Orlando Cepeda," Rodriguez said. "But a lot of them had a chance to see Robbie Alomar play. So now they feel like they can touch him, they can be more aware of the kind of player that he was and why he deserved to be a Hall of Famer."

Cora said "there's no doubt, absolutely none" that Alomar is in the same class as Clemente and Cepeda. And it's easy to see why.

In his 17-year career, Alomar amassed 10 Gold Gloves, the most by any second baseman; won four Silver Sluggers, tied for second at his position; collected 2,724 hits; batted .300, including .313 in 58 postseason games; and garnered two World Series rings. He had the hands of a magician, the speed of a gazelle and a bat comparable to some of the greatest batsmen in history.

In Puerto Rico, he was hailed as a god.

"No one played his position better," Mets outfielder and fellow Puerto Rican Carlos Beltran said in a statement. "Just look at his numbers and accomplishments. As a native of Puerto Rico, I'm also honored for my country that such a distinguished player will be in the Hall of Fame."

"He was like the perfect handyman," his brother and current Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. said in a statement. "He did it all and did it all well. He might not have been the best at any one thing, but he was above average at everything he did on the field."

Three other Puerto Rican-born players made their way on the BBWAA ballot this year, but outfielder Juan Gonzalez (5.2 percent), catcher Benito Santiago (one vote) and second baseman Carlos Baerga (no votes) fell way short. Designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who was born in New York but attended high school in Puerto Rico, was named on 32.9 percent of the ballots.

Alomar almost became the 45th player in Major League history to head to Cooperstown as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he fell eight votes shy of the required 75 percent last year. This time, it wasn't even close. Alomar was named on 523 of the record 581 ballots cast -- 90 percent.

"To the Puerto Rican people, this means a lot to them," Alomar told MLB Network. "It means a lot to me, to my family. And like I always say, when I put my uniform on, I felt proud to play for the Toronto Blue Jays, for the different teams I played for here in the States, but I always took my pride being Puerto Rican and doing everything for Puerto Rico. I hope the Puerto Rican people feel the same way I feel; I know they're real excited about it."

That is an understatement. "We went crazy!" Rodriguez exclaimed.

And the party won't end any time soon, considering Thursday is Three Kings Day -- essentially the equivalent of Christmas in several countries, especially Latin American regions -- and Alomar is king in that island.

"This is huge for all Puerto Ricans," Cepeda said. "Right now, everybody is celebrating the news. The whole island is proud of Roberto Alomar."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.