Joe Christensen's Sunday Insider: Omar Vizquel one of finest in the field

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2012 - 12:07 PM

Omar Vizquel didn't always wow scouts with his slight build, but his glovework led to a 24-year MLB career.

hide

Toronto Blue Jays' Omar Vizquel hits a double to move Vizquel ahead of Babe Ruth on baseball's all-time hits list.

Photo: Bill Kostroun, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

In October 1989, Gophers baseball coach John Anderson went into the Siebert Field grandstand and spoke to some scouts who'd turned out for one of his team's fall scrimmages.

Listen, Anderson said, there's a new kid on campus from Latin America. He hopes to walk on this year. Let me know what you think.

What Anderson knew, and the scouts didn't, was that the kid already had reached the majors. The kid was Omar Vizquel, the same guy who passed Babe Ruth on the career hits list this week.

Vizquel was a rookie with the Mariners in 1989, under manager Jim Lefebvre. The defensive prowess that would eventually earn Vizquel 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop was obvious, but the little guy batted .220 in 143 games and needed more meat on his bones.

Lefebvre's son, Ryan, was headed to the University of Minnesota that fall as a freshman. Seattle finished the season at the Metrodome, so the elder Lefebvre suggested Vizquel spend two weeks on campus, focusing on strength and conditioning.

"It was a great experience because I never had been in a university here in the United States," Vizquel said. "I wanted to see how the players prepared. I met some great guys. I met Coach John Anderson, who was a great guy, too."

Vizquel showed up for his first Gophers practice wearing Mariners gear. By Day 2, he had visited the equipment room and was decked out in maroon and gold.

"He just blended in like one of the guys; it was remarkable," said Ryan Lefebvre, now a broadcaster for the Royals. "He played in all of our intrasquad games, and he used the aluminum bat, too.

"Now, he wasn't The Omar Vizquel yet, but the tricks he could do with his glove and the ball -- I mean it just amazed the guys. He would do them over and over for them."

Vizquel walked the campus and visited classrooms. He attended the homecoming bonfire. He went to a Vikings game.

But the day Anderson talked to the scouts, Vizquel didn't impress.

"Of course, they shredded the guy," Anderson said, chuckling at their comments. "His arm's too short. He's too small. Yeah, he's got pretty good hands, maybe you can make something out of him.

"I said, 'C'mon, this guy's a major league shortstop. This is Omar Vizquel.' They said, 'No way!'"

Now 45, Vizquel has continued baffling onlookers through 24 major league seasons. This will be his last. Playing for Toronto, he continued building his Hall of Fame résumé Wednesday, notching career hits No. 2,873 and 2,874 at Yankee Stadium to tie and then pass Ruth.

"I did all right," Vizquel said. "I would never imagine I was going to stick around the game this long and have all the records and everything that I have accomplished for my career. I weigh 175 pounds, and I'm still 5-9, so I'm not one of these big power hitters that stay in the big leagues because of my bat."

He stayed by being one of the best defensive players of all time. Ozzie Smith is the only shortstop to win more Gold Glove Awards with 13.

"I've heard a lot of scouts say he was the best at bare-handing the ball of anybody they've ever seen," Ryan Lefebvre said. "He would come in bare-handing plays, charging just like it was his glove. The final out for Chris Bosio's no-hitter with the Mariners [in 1993 against Boston], he barehanded the ball. That's how confident he was."

Vizquel said he often played without a glove while growing up in Caracas, Venezuela. How did his hands get so quick?

"I played on a lot of bad fields," Vizquel said.

In tribute, Anderson had a Gophers jersey made with Vizquel's name and No. 13, sending it with the Twins to pass along when the teams meet in the season's final series in Toronto.

"I just wrote him a little note and told him congrats on a great career," Anderson. "I'm glad we didn't screw it up back in 1989."

  • related content

  • Sunday Insider: Central Intelligence

    Sunday September 23, 2012

    When he's on, White Sox righthander Gavin Floyd has one of the majors' best curveballs, and after a three-week stint...

  • Sunday Insider: Short hops

    Sunday September 23, 2012

    Kris Medlen has become a surprising sensation for the Braves, going 8-0 with a 0.76 ERA in 10 starts since moving into the rotation. Medlen, 26, was a shortstop and...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 108 FINAL
Toronto 118
Memphis 91 FINAL
Cleveland 105
Boston 84 FINAL
Miami 100
Detroit 105 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
LA Lakers 101 FINAL
Sacramento 108
Philadelphia 96 FINAL
Orlando 88
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Washington 92
Indiana 100 FINAL
Minnesota 96
New Orleans 101 FINAL
Oklahoma City 99
Colorado 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Dallas 6 FINAL(SO)
Edmonton 5
Buffalo 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 1
Toronto 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 3
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
FIU 69 FINAL
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
ULM 50 FINAL
Samford 64
Coker 52 FINAL
South Carolina 78
USC 75 FINAL
Boston College 71
Northern Ariz 66 FINAL
Hampton 75
SD Christian 61 FINAL
San Diego 71
UC Irvine 55 FINAL
Bradley 47
Troy 65 FINAL
Nicholls 64
Seton Hall 47 FINAL
Georgia 65
Appalachian St 59 FINAL
Alabama 60
North Dakota St 52 FINAL
Kent State 53
San Jose St 53 FINAL
Washington St 82
Alcorn State 45 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
Sacramento St 47 FINAL
Seattle 66
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
FIU 83 FINAL
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
IUPUI 62
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
NC A&T 43 FINAL
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
NJIT 50 FINAL
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Indiana State 73 FINAL
St Johns 67
Southern U 49 FINAL
Florida 78
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
(19) Oklahoma St 66 FINAL
USC 62
Houston 54 FINAL
Texas Tech 60
Ark-Little Rock 66 FINAL
Tulsa 59
Dayton 71 FINAL
Vanderbilt 67
Northern Ariz 37 FINAL
New Mexico 56
UNC-Asheville 60 FINAL
USC Upstate 67
North Dakota 81 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Western Ill 57 FINAL
Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
(6) North Carolina 85
Ball State 59 FINAL
Western Ky 84
(8) Kentucky 68 FINAL
(13) Duke 89
New Orleans 58 FINAL
Alabama 87
Chicago State 47 FINAL
Milwaukee 69
Bowling Green 61 FINAL
Bradley 47
Ill-Springfield 56 FINAL
SE Missouri St 73
Northern Ill 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
Central Michigan 64 FINAL
Minnesota 67
Western Carolina 45 FINAL
North Florida 62
Wyoming 71 FINAL
Colorado 76
Portland 58 FINAL
Boise State 94
Cal Poly 63 FINAL
Colorado State 65
No Dakota State 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
Albany 71 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 49
Oklahoma 64 FINAL
Arkansas 71
Idaho State 63 FINAL
Seattle 55
(18) Michigan State 89 FINAL
(19) Syracuse 76
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Arizona State 88
TX-Arlington 46 FINAL
North Texas 38
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Oregon 59
St Francis-PA 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 72
UNLV 71 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 74
UCLA 50 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 86
(10) Louisville 70 FINAL
(24) California 57
Howard 53 FINAL
Virginia 74
Miami-Ohio 42 FINAL
(21) Miss State 68
Illinois-Chicago 55 FINAL
Old Dominion 61
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Ervin Santana signing by the Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close