Fans come from all over to support inductees

Fans come from all over to support inductees

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Had Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick not even been here, the combination of fans Roberto Alomar brought would still have made for an uncommon pairing.

In Cooperstown on Sunday, Alomar, who's beloved both in his native Puerto Rico and in Toronto, had cheering contingents from all parts of North America. Some traveled across the continent just to take it all in.

An estimated 17,500 fans came to the Hall of Fame's Class of 2011 induction ceremony, sitting on yard chairs and blankets, as the newest members of baseball's most elite circle were officially initiated. Local high schoolers sold hot dogs and drinks, and the Hall of Fame passed out hand fans on a hot day that capped an even hotter weekend.

"In closing, I would like to say to my family, to my fans, to all the Puerto Rican people -- and Canadians -- and the game of baseball," Alomar said, "you are and will always be my life and my love."

With fans waving Puerto Rican flags and Blue Jays hats jerseys everywhere, both groups were vocal whenever either faction was mentioned. For the Canadians in particular, the shout-outs were an all-day affair.

Gillick was the band leader of those two world championship teams in 1992 and '93 that Alomar played on with the Jays, and the longtime executive thanked the Blue Jays fans in his speech just as Alomar did.

"It was awesome, two-for-one right?" said D.J. Brooks, a 30-year-old graduate student who came down for the ceremony from just north of the border, close to Niagara Falls. "We've had guys who have [played for the Blue Jays at one point or another] and gone in the Hall of Fame. But this was the first time where it was, 'Wow, this is a Jay in the Hall of Fame. This is a big deal.'"

Adam Amirault, a 32-year-old communications analyst, traveled with Brooks, and both noticed who had dominated the crowd.

"We thought there'd be a little more from Ontario just because it's only four hours away, but it is still 50 percent of the crowd-ish," Amirault said. "That's actually what D.J. said, you throw in the Puerto Rican crowd, and it brought it all out."

For Puerto Rico, Alomar's career and his family only continued the tradition of outstanding baseball on the island, and he is now enshrined alongside the likes of Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda.

Alomar's contributions and his selection to the Hall meant enough to Ramon Villafoñe that he made the trip from Puerto Rico to be in Cooperstown.

"The best second base player in history," Villafoñe said of what brought him here. "And a really great person, too."

There was a third common sighting on Sunday around Cooperstown, and throughout the Hall of Fame weekend.

No. 28 powder jerseys. Hats with "TC" and "M" everywhere -- Minnesota loves baseball, and Minnesota loves Bert Blyleven.

"You are all, hereby, circled," Blyleven said to finish the last speech of the day, a reference to the signs fans often bring to Target Field and brought plenty of to Cooperstown on Sunday. Blyleven is in control of the telestrator in the Twins' broadcast booth, so on telecasts, he will literally circle them.

Dale and Brady Bedard are a father-son duo that took to Cooperstown for the first time this weekend, staying in Syracuse -- a solid 80-plus miles away and commuting each day.

On Saturday, they were standing on Main Street as the evening parade of Hall of Famers came by, the 50 or so of them waving from a truck that pulled out of Doubleday Field.

Dale, 64, and Brady, 35, are both from the Twin Cities area -- although the younger Bedard is now in Atlanta -- and they knew this winter exactly what they would have to do if Blyleven's number finally got called.

Said Dale, "We were in Atlanta for Christmas, and Brady said 'Dad, if Bert gets in, we're going.'"

"First game my dad ever took me too, Bert pitched, 1985," Brady said of a 4-3 Blue Jays win at the Metrodome on Aug. 26. "Pitched a complete game, in a loss, but I remember I was 10 years old."

Dale said he once tried out for the Twins and met Blyleven in his rookie year. The Twins and baseball are a family love, and over the weekend, he and his son spent two hours on one floor of the Museum alone.

Certainly, they weren't the only ones captivated by the induction of the Class of 2011.

"Just kind of in awe, sucking it in," Dale said. "It's the Vatican, man."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.