CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Now that Omar Vizquel’s playing days are behind him, the former Cleveland Indians shortstop is well into the next chapter of his baseball career: big league coaching.
The former big leaguer is now serving as the first base, infield and base-running coach of the Detroit Tigers, something he feels will help prepare him for where he ultimately hopes to see himself in the future – as a Major League manager.
As Vizquel journeys back to Cleveland for a three-game series with the Tigers, the man who will be inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame on Saturday still has managerial aspirations.
“No doubt about it,” Vizquel said. “I think being a coach right now is taking the baby steps to becoming a manager. I hope that I can have that opportunity someday. I’m preparing myself for it. I’m looking at things from a different perspective now. I’m not a player anymore so obviously sometimes we have to make some tough decisions. That’s what things come down to – finally realizing what you’ve got to do to get the team going and motivated and go from there.”
Vizquel, having spent portions of 24 seasons in the Major Leagues, is now part of the coaching staff of first-year manager Brad Ausmus in Detroit. He is on a staff that also features former big leaguers Wally Joyner, Gene Lamont, Jeff Jones and Dave Clark.
“Right now, I’m learning a lot,” Vizquel said. “I am with a great group of coaches that can help me accomplish [my goal of being a manager]. I’m glad that I have this opportunity to help out the Detroit Tigers and do something.”
During his playing career, Vizquel spent 11 seasons with the Cleveland Indians and was a large part of the club’s World Series runs in 1995 and 1997. The switch-hitter batted .283 in his career with Cleveland and won nine Gold Glove Awards as a member of the Tribe, 11 overall.
“It’s amazing,” Vizquel said of his upcoming induction into the Indians Hall of Fame. “You take a look back at a career of a guy and there’s very few chances that you have to be part of a Hall of Fame. I think it’s a prestige thing for any player that you can be mentioned to be in such a Hall. Especially with all the great players that have been playing in this organization for a long time, I’m very honored that the Cleveland Indians and whoever got to pick the players have selected me to be in there. I’m very excited.”
Vizquel will become the 40th member of the Indians inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Making Up With Mesa?
When Vizquel wrote about his former teammate Jose Mesa in his 2003 book “Omar! My Life On and Off the Field,” Mesa did not take kindly to Vizquel’s words.
Of Mesa’s blown save in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series, Vizquel wrote: “The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made. Unfortunately, Jose’s own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home. You could almost see right through him. Not long after I looked into his vacant eyes, he blew the save and the Marlins tied the game.”
After the book was published, Mesa became furious with Vizquel and vowed to hit his former teammate every time he faced him. “Even my little boy told me to get him,” Mesa told the media at the time. “If I face him 10 more times, I’ll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him.”
For a while, he lived up to his end of the bargain, throwing at Vizquel three times before agreeing to simply pitch to him.
To this day, Vizquel and Mesa have never shook hands and made up.
“Jose and I, it’s so funny, because he was one of my best friends when I was here,” Vizquel said. “We were in the lockers right next to each other. We lived five minutes away. We fooled around a lot. We cooked together. It was kind of sad that I never got to tell him that I never really meant anything bad about what I said in the book. Whatever people said about it.
“It was just a bad incident that turned a different detour and he took it in a different way. It’s bad that I haven’t really talked to him about it.”
It’s safe to say Mesa will not be in attendance for Saturday’s ceremony to honor Vizquel at Progressive Field.
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