Alomar Jr. joins Tribe staff

Alomar Jr. joins Tribe coaching staff

CLEVELAND -- That guy directing traffic at first base at Progressive Field next season will be a familiar face to Tribe fans. Sandy Alomar Jr. is coming back to the Indians.

Manager Manny Acta, nearing the completion of his coaching staff, has hired Alomar to be his first-base coach. Alomar will also work closely with the Tribe's catchers.

The only major position left open on Acta's staff is that of hitting coach. Two internal candidates -- Triple-A Columbus hitting coach Jon Nunnally and Minor League field coordinator Dave Hudgens -- will be interviewed by Acta in Venezuela the first week of December. It is not known how many external candidates Acta is considering. A final decision will be made in advance of the Winter Meetings, which kick off Dec. 7.

Acta has already named Tim Belcher his pitching coach, Tim Tolman his bench coach, Steve Smith his third-base and infield coach and Scott Radinsky his bullpen coach.

Alomar had a job as a catching instructor with the Mets, but his acceptance of the position with the Indians makes for a homecoming of sorts. Alomar spent 11 seasons with the Tribe from 1990-2000. While with them, he was a six-time All-Star and a leader on the field on Tribe teams that won five AL Central titles and two AL pennants.

"Sandy's a guy we had in mind from Day 1," Acta said. "We had to respect the position he had with the Mets, but he has a lot to bring to us [in working] with our young catchers, Lou [Marson] and possibly [Carlos] Santana down the road. Sandy loves it here, and he's loved by the community. We're very happy to have him here."

The Mets granted Alomar permission to talk with the Indians and, ultimately, Acta said, it was Alomar's decision to return to his adopted hometown.

"Every step of the process was done in a very professional manner," Acta said.

The Indians gave Alomar a fitting tribute when he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame this past summer.

"I'm not here because of stats," Alomar said at the time. "I'm here because I love to win. If you go by stats, there are many guys that should be here [ahead of me]. But I'm happy, and I feel honored that they reward players that come to play and to win ballgames."

In 985 games with the Indians, Alomar batted .277 with 92 homers, 453 RBIs and 416 runs. Plagued by knee problems throughout his career, Alomar's numbers weren't always awe-inspiring, but he became a fan favorite because of his attitude, leadership and tenacity.

The 43-year-old Alomar is best remembered in these parts for his 1997 season, in which he hit .324 with 37 doubles, 21 homers and 83 RBIs in 125 games. Cleveland hosted that year's All-Star Game, and Alomar became the hometown hero by hitting the game-winning homer and capturing MVP honors.

Later that fall, it was Alomar's homer off Mariano Rivera that spared the Indians from elimination in Game 4 of the Division Series, and the Tribe went on to win not only that series but also the ALCS against the Orioles.

Alomar's 20-year playing career ended with the Mets in 2007. For his career, he batted .273 with 112 homers and 588 RBIs in 1,377 games. The Indians acquired him, along with Carlos Baerga and Chris James, for Joe Carter after the 1989 season. His rookie year with the Tribe in 1990 saw him win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, as well as a Gold Glove.

Alomar had served as the Mets' catching instructor for the past two seasons. Acta said the fact that Alomar was given a Major League coaching job without coaching one day in the Minors says a lot about his aptitude.

"There are some great players who can be great coaches," Acta said. "He's one of those guys."

Acta worked with Alomar's father while with the Mets earlier this decade, and he is familiar with Sandy Jr. from his days managing in the opposite dugout with the Nationals, the Mets' NL East rivals.

Where Alomar will be counted on most is in the catching department.

"He's going to be huge overall in the catching situation," Acta said. "We all know how good a catcher Sandy was, and he's going to help these guys learn how to handle a staff and call a ballgame and also with blocking and throwing. He'll also help with the preparation to attack hitters. Sandy's going to be huge for us in that aspect of the game."

Alomar has made it clear that he has aspirations to one day manage in the big leagues.

"Right now," he said at the time of his induction in the club Hall of Fame, "it's baby steps."

And he's taking that next step with Acta and the Indians.

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