TORONTO — Few players have left as lasting a mark on the Toronto Blue Jays as Roberto Alomar, and the Hall of Fame second baseman is optimistic Puerto Rican countryman Charlie Montoyo will also make a significant impact on the franchise.
“I’m real excited,” Alomar, one of the club’s special assistants, said over the phone Wednesday. “It’s good news, not only for the Puerto Rican people, but for Latinos getting an opportunity to manage in the big leagues. It’s a big deal for us. And especially Charlie. He’s paid his dues, he’s been in the minor leagues for so many years. I’ve known Charlie since he was playing in Winter Ball, so I’m glad to see that Mark (Shapiro) and Ross (Atkins) are giving him an opportunity to be a manager.”
Montoyo, hired last Thursday as the replacement for John Gibbons and introduced Monday, is the second Latino to serve as manager of the Blue Jays, joining Carlos Tosca. The 53-year-old said earlier this week that his ascension to the role the day after compatriot Alex Cora led the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title created “a lot of happiness in Puerto Rico now, and I’m proud of that.”
Alomar believes Blue Jays fans will soon feel the same way.
“He’s a great guy to be around, he knows the game really well and he loves the game of baseball,” he says of Montoyo. “You have to be passionate about the game to be in the minor leagues for so long. People have to acknowledge that. He loves to compete and he loves to win. Hopefully he can get some good results.”
For that to happen, Montoyo will need the Blue Jays’ farm system to produce on the talent that prompted Baseball America to rank the organization third in August.
While the likes of Ryan Borucki, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Billy McKinney, Thomas Pannone and Anthony Alford have already started to transition, they need to stick, and the waves of players behind them need to bolster and push the roster forward.
Beyond top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, Alomar says he’s seen plenty to like in his visits to the minor leagues.
“I’ve been part of the development system for the last six years and in the last two years, it’s just getting better and better,” says Alomar. “It’s amazing what Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins and all the guys in the minors have accomplished. We have to give credit to those guys and we have to give time to those guys because I know what they’re capable of doing.
“Even this year, I think we’re going to compete. We have guys in the minor leagues that know how to play the game.”
One of the less heralded prospects Alomar really likes is second baseman Cavan Biggio, who is in the Arizona Fall League learning to play the outfield to add to his positional flexibility.
“Every year I’ve seen him, he’s grown up as a player. I feel really, really good about him,” says Alomar. “Biggio’s going to make an impact.”
What gives Alomar faith is that the work underpinning the development of Biggio and other prospects in the Blue Jays system, “especially on the mental side,” will ultimately produce a strong roster for Montoyo to deploy.
“We’re working more on the mental side to believe in themselves, believe in their talent and ability, and believe that this is a team game, not an individual game,” says Alomar. “That’s what we need to teach in the minor leagues. You have go through ups and downs, you have to go through times when you’re 0-for-15, there are going to be times when you can’t get anybody out.
“They’re learning how to take care of each other and learning the game the right way.”