Alomar auditioning for one last hurrah
Veteran hopes to impress, play one more big-league season
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Sandy Alomar Jr. was once the American League's Rookie of the Year. He is a six-time All-Star, a Gold Glove Award winner and has played in a World Series. Around the corner from his locker at Mets camp is pitcher Tom Glavine and across the room is outfielder Moises Alou, men who also have had distinguished careers.
All are 40 years old, but only Glavine and Alou are still celebrated. Alomar is in camp with a Minor League contract, hoping to impress somebody, anybody, to extend his career.
The reason for the stark contrast is that Alomar plays a position -- catcher -- that usually ages people much more quickly. Todd Pratt, vying for a backup job with the Yankees, is the only other 40-year-old catcher still trying to play.
"I've had my share of injuries over the years," Alomar said. "But the last three years I've been healthy since I've been backing up. It's a lot easier on me."
Alomar is not trying to be another Carlton Fisk, who had three productive years after turning 40. He realizes his chance of sticking with the Mets hinges solely on injuries. Otherwise, Paul Lo Duca and Ramon Castro figure to open the season as the Mets' tandem there.
Thus, Alomar most likely is showcasing himself to attract another team.
"I just want to let people know I'm healthy," he said. "I want to put it in people's minds that I'm still out there and I can help."
Alomar can flash some statistics that should get some team's interest. Splitting time last season between the Dodgers and White Sox, he hit .278 with eight doubles, a home run and 30 RBIs over 46 games.
And career-wise, Alomar is a .274 hitter with 112 home runs and 588 RBIs in 1,369 Major League games for six teams -- the Padres, Indians, White Sox, Rockies, Rangers and Dodgers.
"I can definitely do a more adequate job than a lot of people can out there," Alomar said. "Everybody knows what they're going to get from me."
Still, Alomar mostly is trying to buck a trend that has Major League teams keeping younger backup catchers. He also suspects that his age may give some teams pause.
"That's probably the line that people draw -- he's 40, he's done," Alomar said. "But I don't feel that way. I've kept myself in great shape. And when you're a backup, it's not as much a question of your endurance -- it's what you can do on the days they need you to fill in.
"I really feel that based on ability, I can still play for somebody. That's why I'm here. When you can show them that you're in shape, they can see for themselves."
Two collisions at home plate among many stand out in Alomar's mind. He said the worst head-on shot he took was, ironically, from another catcher. He said Bob Boone rammed an elbow into his neck, sending him flying. He also remembers breaking his left leg after extending it in an attempt to impede a runner's path.
His sweetest memory? Making his American League debut in 1990. It came in Cleveland, with snow beginning to fall, a stiff wind and a knuckleballer, Tom Candiotti, pitching for the Indians.
"I was so excited that none of that other stuff mattered to me," he said.
The game eventually was snowed out in the fourth inning.
Alomar doesn't have to look around the clubhouse long these days to see a familiar face or two. He played last season with pitcher Aaron Sele, was once teammates with Julio Franco and Ruben Sierra and competed in a World Series against Alou.
Of course his father -- Sandy Alomar Sr. -- is a Mets coach. They had dinner together Wednesday night, in their first extended conversation since the son arrived here because both are so busy.
Then across from Alomar in the clubhouse's corner he can see a sobering symbol of his age. Developing catcher Francisco Pena is the son of Tony Pena, once his backup catcher with the Indians.
"That feels pretty unusual," Alomar said with a smile.
Alomar, born in Puerto Rico and now a Chicago resident, surprisingly has no desire to play beyond this season.
"I love to play," he said. "I don't play for money or anything else except that I just love to play. But this is it, one way or another. After the type of season I had, it looked like somebody would sign me for this year, and I'm still wondering a little about that. But if nothing happens now, I can accept closure."
Alomar paused a moment to reflect on a distinguished career.
"I can't complain," he said. "I mean, sometimes you wish you were healthier during your prime time, but it just goes with the territory. I played hard and a lot of my injuries came getting run over and things like that. But I wouldn't take anything back. I like the way that I play. The main thing is winning games."
He is realistic, yet hopeful about squeezing one more season out of his body.
"Whatever happens," Alomar said, "at least I can say I came in and tried. I don't have to feel bad about anything."
Charlie Nobles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.