Alomar returns to Camden Yards

Roberto Alomar will be inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame later tonight, before the series-opener against the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards.

The former second baseman arrived early today to attend a luncheon, along with longtime baseball operations executive Don Pries, who will receive the Herb Armstrong Award. Alomar spent a few minutes talking to the local media, smiling as he recognized the faces of reporters who covered the team during his three seasons in Baltimore.

“I feel honored,” said Alomar, who played here from 1996-1998. “It’s an honor as a ballplayer. I never expected this phone call from the Orioles. I only played here for three years and it caught me by surprise. But to be selected with such a great, elite group of players, it is an honor. It is a dream come true for myself.”

Asked for his favorite memories, Alomar replied, “I think making the playoffs. Getting the chance to play with such a great team and a great organization. And I had a lot of fun playing beside Cal Ripken. He’s the guy here in Baltimore. And playing in front of the crowd is something I’ll remember for life.

“Playing with Cal was, to me, a childhood dream come true. Playing with one of the top shortstops, it was an unbelievable feeling for myself. And I remember every day that we played here, we played in front of a sold out crowd. So, as a ballplayer, you always loved that.”

In 1996, Alomar set the franchise record with 132 runs scored and led the team with a .328 average, 193 hits, 43 doubles and a .411 on-base percentage, as the Orioles made the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. He set team records for home runs (20, 22 total) and RBIs (84, 94 total) as a second baseman in a single season.

Alomar also won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award. He also won a Gold Glove 1998 and made the All-Star team in all three seasons with the Orioles. He was named MVP of the Mid-Summer Classic in ‘98.

Was 1996 his finest season in the majors?

“I believe number-wise, I believe so, but I had some great years, too, in Cleveland,” he said. “I had some great numbers there. But I believe the three years I had here with the Orioles, personally, would maybe be the best of my career.

“To me, it’s a fun ballpark. I believe that this ballpark is the best ballpark in the game of baseball, especially to play. It’s a beautiful ballpark.”

The ‘97 team was widely regarded as the best in baseball, going wire-to-wire to win the American League East, but the Orioles lost to the Indians in the AL Championship Series.

“I thought we were going to win, but we came up short,” he said. “But we had a great team from top to bottom. Great balance in the lineup, great pitching. The other team just played better.”

Alomar, a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, also played for the Padres (1988-90), Blue Jays (1991-95), Indians (1999-2001), Mets (2002-2003), White Sox (2003-2004) and Diamondbacks (2004). He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 2011, the first player enshrined as a Blue Jay.

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