CLEVELAND — It is Indians Hall of Fame Weekend but for Omar Vizquel it could be called something else — Back to the Future.
The Indians will honor Vizquel for his 11 seasons here before Saturday’s game against Detroit. It comes as he is embarking on a new career as the first-base coach for the Tigers. This is Vizquel’s first season with Detroit after one season as a roving instructor in the Angels minor-league system.
For Vizquel, who has aspirations as a future manager, it is the first step towards that goal.
"Being a coach right now is taking the baby steps you need to become a manager," he said on Friday. "It’s a different perspective now. We have to make tough decisions. I finally realize what you have to do to get the team going. I’m learning a lot and am with a great group of coaches and I’m glad I have this opportunity."
Vizquel is the 40th inductee into the Indians Hall of Fame. He won eight of his 11 Gold Gloves while with the Indians along with being named to the American League All-Star team three times.
En route to helping the Tribe win two American League and six division titles, he became a fan favorite. In 1999, he batted .333 and scored 112 runs. He remains Major League Baseball’s all-time leader at shortstop in fielding percentage (.985), double plays turned (1,735) and games played (2,709).
He also remains a fan favorite. Vizquel said that en route to driving here last night from Detroit, he stopped in Sandusky to grab something to drink and was recognized by one of the Ohio Turnpike toll booth workers, who asked for a photo.
"Being with a winning team was going to put your name on the map. My game got better and I started believing in myself," Vizquel said. "Being around Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar and all those great players gives you confidence."
A lot of what Vizquel experienced playing in Cleveland he is applying as a coach. Whether it is about relating to teammates or the importance of making a great defensive play.
Even though he had a 24-year career in the Majors that is a rarity. Vizquel has been impressing to players on the Tigers to enjoy the time they spend with each other, whether it is at the ballpark, going out to restaurants or the movies.
When it comes to defensive plays, he has tried to impress how much a good play in the field can impact everyone.
"I keep reminding them not only a good hit can change the feeling or result but a great play in the field can pump everyone up," he said. "It’s a good way to get out of a slump especially when you are not hitting well. The defensive side has to elevate a game to maintain the balance of the whole team. It is important to play great defense and you have to for a team to go to the top."
Besides Vizquel, the Indians will posthumously induct radio broadcaster Jimmy Dudley into their Distinguished Hall of Fame for non-uniformed personnel.