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Alomar receives Jays' highest honor

Alomar receives Jays' highest honor

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays recognized Roberto Alomar with the club's most distinguished honor on Thursday, elevating the former second baseman to Toronto's Level of Excellence.

During the Blue Jays' home opener on April 4, Alomar will be on hand at Rogers Centre, where he'll salute the fans and watch as his name is unveiled on the facing of the stadium's 500 level. Alomar, who won two World Series titles during his time with Toronto, is looking forward to that moment.

"I took a lot of pride in playing the game of baseball," Alomar said during a conference call on Thursday, "and I did my best when I played for the Toronto Blue Jays. For me, it's an honor and I feel really excited and I can't wait for that day, so I can enjoy that day with the fans in Toronto."

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Alomar, who retired during Spring Training 2005 as a member of Tampa Bay after 17 seasons in the Majors, will become eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010. When that time comes, if Alomar is voted into the hallowed halls in Cooperstown, N.Y., he said he wants to go in with a Blue Jays' hat on his plaque.

"That's my goal," said Alomar, who suited up for Toronto from 1991-95. "I always say that my best years, even though I had some great years with other teams, nothing can top those two World Series. To me, if one day I get inducted in the Hall of Fame, I would love it to be with a Toronto Blue Jays hat."

During his storied big league career, Alomar was named to 12 All-Star teams, captured four Silver Slugger Awards, received 10 Gold Glove Awards and took home the Most Valuable Player honors in the 1992 American League Championship Series and in the 1998 All-Star Game. His 10 Gold Gloves are the most of any second baseman in baseball history.

During each of Alomar's five years in Toronto, he won an AL Gold Glove Award and was a member of the AL's All-Star squad. Alomar's .307 career batting average with the Blue Jays is the highest mark in franchise history among players with at least 2,000 plate appearances. Alomar also ranks second in team history in stolen bases (206) and fifth in triples (36).

Alomar was signed as an amateur free agent by the Padres in 1985, but Toronto acquired the second baseman, along with Joe Carter, on Dec. 5, 1990, in a trade that sent Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego. After five years with the Blue Jays, Alomar also had stints with the Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks.

For his career, Alomar finished with a .300 average, 210 home runs and 1,134 RBIs over 2,379 games. He signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay prior to the 2005 season, but retired from baseball at the age of 37 on March 19 that spring. Alomar was hoping to reach 3,000 hits, but he felt it was time to walk away from the game.

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"In my final season, I wanted to stay," Alomar said. "But my body wouldn't allow it. I wasn't moving the way I always wanted to move. My vision wasn't the same. [I had] aches and pains. It was a tough decision. That was one of the saddest days of my life to leave the game of baseball.

"I would've loved to get 3,000 hits, but I knew at the time that I stepped out from the game, it was time for me to step out. I couldn't play the way I always wanted to play. The level of playing went down, so I decided to just let the young guys go there and play baseball. But I'm really proud of what I did."

The Blue Jays, who do not retire player numbers, with the exception of Jackie Robinson's No. 42, first honored former players and personnel on the team's Level of Excellence in 1996. Alomar becomes the eighth person recognized by the Toronto, joining former players Carter, Fernandez, George Bell and Dave Stieb, as well as former manager Cito Gaston, former general manager Pat Gillick and former broadcaster Tom Cheek.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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