Former Cleveland Indians player Omar Vizquel tags second base and prepares to throw to first base for a make-believe double play before a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Indians, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Cleveland. Vizquel was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame on Saturday.(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
CLEVELAND — It felt like the late ’90s again at Progressive Field on Saturday night — packed house, most of the stars from those great Indians teams on the field and Omar Vizquel receiving a standing ovation.
Before the game against the Tigers, Vizquel became the 40th player inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame, capping off a day of activities.
Of all the Indians greats of the ’90s, Vizquel is the most popular. En route to helping the Tribe win two American League pennants and six division titles, he became a fan favorite, he won eight of his 11 Gold Gloves here along with being named to the American League All-Star team three times.
After unveiling his plaque inside Heritage Park, Vizquel came out through the bullpen in center field and ran to the infield before receiving his Hall of Fame blazer near the pitchers mound.
"I feel very lucky to be in this position right now," Vizquel said. "I’m happy that Cleveland is having this ceremony and to have a chance to talk to teammates about old times."
Vizquel has talked often throughout the weekend of his 11 seasons with the Indians but during am afternoon luncheon it was time for his former teammates to talk about what Vizquel meant to them.
"I remember when he got traded here, the first day he came out he said ‘I was watching you guys play last year and you made a lot of errors.’ If we want to be a better team we can’t commit that many errors," Carlos Baerga said. "We started taking more ground balls. He made us better players. Then we taught him how to be a better hitter."
Added Kenny Lofton: "A couple times. We would be out in the sun, it is so bright, everyone has shades on but Omar. He’s the only guy I know who would turn his back to the hitter to catch the fly ball."
Charles Nagy and Sandy Alomar’s memories of Vizquel were more about off-the-field moments. Nagy talked about Vizquel’s eclectic tastes in clothes and music while Alomar talked about Vizquel’s yellow Porsche and how he blew past Alomar on the highway the first time he drove it.
Vizquel’s former teammates are still helping him out today as he transitions into being a baseball coach. Alomar, who caught the first pitch, talks often with Vizquel during the season. During the past Winter League season, Vizquel got pointers from Baerga, who managing the Mayaguez Indians in the Puerto Rican winter league.
"We always talk about the adjustments and keeping the players positive," Baerga said. "Some of the things we thought about as players and all the knowledge you gained you want to apply it someday and this is a good opportunity."
Shortly after getting inducted and being driven around the field in the yellow Porsche, Vizquel changed into this Tigers uniform and took his place as the first-base coach. Fans are hoping that the next ceremony they get to see Vizquel at is in Cooperstown for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is eligible in 2018 but getting in his first year is a long shot. Former Reds great Barry Larkin didn’t get in until the second year he was eligible.