One of the Indians' all-time greats talks baseball, past and present.
By PAT McMANAMON FS Ohio
Omar Vizquel remains a
Cleveland Indians fan favorite. Fans appreciated Vizquel’s on-field wizardry, and that he was one of them in the team’s era of greatness in the 1990.s To this day, Vizquel seems to have a tough time coming to grips with how beloved he is in the eyes of Indians fans. Vizquel recently was in town for his bobblehead night. He threw out two first pitches, joked that this was his fifth bobblehead and none looked like him, and talked about his artwork. He also spent time with the media talking about his goals, his relationship with Cleveland and that crazy group of Indians in the ‘90s.
Q. What are you doing now?
A. I’m working as an infield instructor for the Anaheim Angels. You go to all the teams in the organization, from rookie ball toAAA, and talk to the infielders. All the experience that I have, now I can pass it to the younger people. That is something that gives me a lotof satisfaction.
Q. You got to manage some games recently?
A. One of the mangers of the AA team took some days off.They asked me if I could step in for four days. I did very well. I won three games, and lost one. But the experience of doing the lineup, and taking the game and thinking ahead of the game, the anticipation and everything you have to do was the process that I really wanted to do. That is is what I’m really preparing myself for. I really want to so that before I completely retire as a baseball player. I want to be a manager somewhere.
Q. How soon would you like to manage?
A. Well I would love to do it tomorrow but I got to get a call.
Q. Do you miss playing?
A. To tell you the truth, I don’t really miss playing much. I think playing at 45was hard enough, especially when you do it on turf (he spent his last season in Toronto). … I was spending a lot of time on the bench. I played once every 10 days or something like that. I didn’t really like that situation. To me, I wanted to do something different, and being a coach and a manager is the most immediate thing that I can think and what I wanted to do.
Q. How do you feel about the way you are welcomed every time you return to Cleveland?
A. I feel really strange. Because I stopped playing in Cleveland in the year 2004. To this day, fans really treat me very very special. It looks like it was just yesterdaythat I left the team. When I came here with the Giants, when I played here for the first time after I left Cleveland, it was very emotional. They played a video on the scoreboard. It really touched my heart. It was really exciting the way people got up and gave me a standing ovation. Something that I wasn’t really expecting.
Q. Why do fans identify with that team from the ‘90s so much?
A. I think it’s because of what we give them them in the‘90s. Everything that happened during those ‘90s, it was amazing. … People still talk about Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Charles Nagy, CarlosBaerga, Sandy Alomar. We could go on and on. I have a Twitter account, and most of the people who follow me are from Cleveland. It’s crazy because everything they want to talk about is in the ‘90s It’s like, ‘Wow, wait a minute, that’s like 10, 15 years ago.’
Q. What did you think would happen when you were traded here?
A. I thought it was gonna take off. Really. You take a look at the roster that we were putting together … You knew we were going to have a chance to win.
Q. Can you talk about how you grew as a hitter, especially in Cleveland?
A. You remember that when I came to the big leagues I was only switch-hitting for one year. So it was gonna be a really long process for me to kind of feel the groove of being a switch-hitter. I knew it was going to take some time, and I knew coming here to this lineup and sticking me in the middle of the order right behind Kenny Lofton and before Carlos Baerga was going to give me an edge. Take advantage of moving the ball around. HItting the opposite way. Taking advantage of all those holes Kenny left when he got on base, and gettingthe opportunity to get a lot of fastballs with Carlos and Albert hitting behind me. That kind of developed my hitting a little quicker.
Q. Ever think about the Hall of Fame?
A. Not really. Obviously the numbers are there and obviously some guys have their opinions. … I’m not thinking that I’m gonna be voted the first time around, but obviously I got some numbers to argue.
Q. What was the attitude of that ‘90s team?
A. I felt that we were unbeatable. Really. There were a lot of people walking with a swagger. And you can feel it and you can hear it from other teams. When you go talk to other teams, they’re like,‘Here we go again, we got to be ready to run in the outfield because those guys are going to score a lot of runs. Our pitchers had better be ready.’ You can feel some kind of intimidation by the way we take the field and by the way we take the field every day.
Q. Any one or two moments you remember more than others?
A. There was a moment for me that I think you guys remember very well, the day that I made the three errors (in April of 1994). That was a game that I will never forget. As a matter of fact when I go and talk to kids or give speeches, I say I learned so much from that day. From being out there on the field and having the world against you. It was gonna be a hard moment to forget. I stand up after the game and I talk to everybody, all the questions they ask me. It was agreat moment to recap and to go back again to your Little League careerand see what are the things that can help you to get out of that. I remember after that it was 80-some games that I didn’t commit an error. It was like a wakeup call.
Q. When you look back can you believe you had three errors in one game?
A. You know what I don’t believe is that I made three errors in that one game, and there was a complete season that I played 155 games that I made three errors. That is something that I don’t believe. I think that year I wound up with 11 errors. It teaches you that baseball goes in mysterious ways sometimes. That was my first year here and I didn’t know what response I would get from people. After I heard the radio show where they were like, ‘Why the hell did we get thisguy?’
Q. Was it tough to face the questions after that game?
A. Of course it was difficult. One of the things that I remember is that when guys didn’t have good games, the first thing they did was say, ‘Hey I have 15 minutes until the press gets here. I have totake a shower quick and leave.’ And you guys didn’t get your news. But in a professional way, I like reading about when people fail, when people have the adversity. It’s something that I dealt with every day. The press is something that can put you really high one day and the nextday can put you really low. It’s just the way it is. You can’t write something nice about a guy who went 0-for-5 and made three errors. To methat was a moment that stands out. Also the game that we came back frombehind when we were losing 10-0 against the Seattle Mariners. That was one of the games that I will never forget in my life. It teaches you a lot about the character of a team. I don’t think anybody that day would give us a chance to win. As a matter of fact, there were 20,000 people in the stands and in the seventh inning there were only 5,000 people. And we came back. … I hit a triple that tied the game, with the bases loaded. That game was amazing. The best game I ever played in my life.
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