Sandy Alomar: “[Acta’s call] was a slam dunk.”
When Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar left the Tribe after a magical run in the 90s, he never imagined that he would one day return to Cleveland as a member of the Indians coaching staff.
After short stints with several teams, including the Chicago White Sox and the Colorado Rockies, Alomar made his way to New York to begin the 2007 season with the Mets. Little did he know, he would open the season in the Minor Leagues and see limited playing time in the big leagues that year. Alomar’s role eventually became that of back-up catcher during the season, and he found himself sharing his knowledge of the game and coaching his teammates.
“When I started playing back-up catcher, I was kind of like a player-coach because I was mentoring players. It was kind of interesting, players coming to me asking for advice,” he said. “It was like, ‘If I’m coaching right now, when I retire, this is a great opportunity to stay in baseball because I love the game.’”
Alomar said that both Jerry Manuel and Charlie Manuel had told him that he would become an outstanding coach one day.
“A lot of coaches that I played for — my dad was one of them — said, ‘You communicate good with other players. You have the intangibles to be a great coach,’” Alomar said.
Upon completion of the 2007 season, the Mets contacted Alomar and asked him to join their coaching staff as the bullpen coach. Alomar said he could not turn down an offer to stay around the game he had played for 20 years, so he accepted the job.
Just two years later, Alomar received a call from Indians manager Manny Acta. Alomar knew of Acta from the Mets Organization, where Acta and Sandy Alomar Sr. had coached together earlier in Acta’s coaching career. Surprised by the phone call, Alomar immediately thought of his two oldest daughters who live in the Cleveland area, and he accepted Acta’s offer to be the Tribe’s first base coach.
“It was a slam dunk,” Alomar said. “I thought it was a joke at first, but I [thought about coming] here to the place that I played, the place that I loved and shared all my moments here and the winning tradition we had here.
“It was an opportunity for me to spend more time with [my daughters] at the same time.”
Alomar is one of many active coaches who were previously Major League catchers. He said he believes that players involved in numerous plays — typically catchers, pitchers, and middle infielders — ultimately have the best understanding of the game of baseball.
“Catchers have a good view of the field,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to be a manager or anything like that, but you’re totally into the game. You’re involved in every play, and no pitch is thrown unless you put a sign down. You’re the man back there.”
Acta called Alomar just in time for him to work with young Indians catcher Carlos Santana, a converted third baseman. With just one year of experience behind the plate, Santana was traded to Cleveland from the Dodgers in 2008 in exchange for infielder Casey Blake. He was added to Cleveland’s Major League roster midway through the 2010 season.
Alomar said Santana has brought out the best of him as a coach.
“Carlos Santana is a different kind of player, being a converted catcher. There were a lot of things he didn’t know as a catcher that, now, he’s trying to learn,” Alomar said. “It’s a big challenge. He’s a dream if you want to coach, but he’s a challenge.
“I’m open to working with anyone that wants to listen, and he’s done a pretty good job so far.”
Reflecting back on his brief coaching career, Alomar said he has done his best to work with numerous personalities on Major League rosters.
“Everybody’s different. Everybody has different styles, different bodies. Everything has to be adjusted to that particular person, that particular player,” he said. “Their needs and their failures and their strengths and weaknesses [differ].”
A six-time All-Star and 1990 Rookie of the Year and recipient of a Gold Glove, Alomar said he does not expect players to try and model his game.
“I never try to say that you need to do it like I do it. I’ve never done that,” he said. “I know I am going to go out there and give you my honest opinion, and I’m going to organize a program for catchers out there that will get you in the best position you can be.”
-Megan Golden, TribeVibe contributor