Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Baseball

Helping White Sox next on Vizquel list

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Omar Vizquel's wish list is impressive: he's already held an anaconda by the tail and donned a matador's outfit in a first step toward bullfighting.

Flying in an F-16 and sky diving are also on his radar.

First, though, there's more baseball ahead for the 42-year-old infielder — this time with the Chicago White Sox, who are managed by his fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen.

Vizquel can't wear his familiar No. 13 because Guillen has it and won't give it up. So he went to yet another countryman who played shortstop in Chicago, Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio, and got his blessing and his permission to unretire No. 11 and wear it this season.

"I was intimidated a little bit to ask him," Vizquel said Thursday as he reported to spring training.

Aparicio was named American League Rookie of the Year as a member of the White Sox in 1956 and the 10-time All-Star played 10 seasons with Chicago. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984, the same year the team retired his uniform number.

"It's not easy just to ask a legend like him to wear that number," Vizquel said. "But I think the good relationship I have with him made me pop the question. ... He hesitated a little bit, he thought about it and he gave me a little smile and said, 'Well, if there is somebody that I want to wear my number, I think that person can be you.' It was like a shock and it made me feel good."

As he did last season with the Texas Rangers, 11-time Gold Glove winner Vizquel's assignment with the White Sox will be as a backup infielder at shortstop, third and second while perhaps serving as a mentor to shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Most of Vizquel's 21-year career has been spent at shortstop and he's regarded as one of the best fielders to ever play the position.

"I think I can really help him (Ramirez) to be confident, to know what it's like to go through a slump and try to come out of it," Vizquel said. "I'm pretty sure I can help out, not only him but everybody around here."

Guillen told Vizquel to offer advice and tips only when asked, to let the young players seek him out. And he advised both Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham that they should pick Vizquel's brain, starting in spring training.

"If I was those guys in the middle infield, I'd try to get everything I can from him," Guillen said.

Vizquel has kept himself in shape and during batting practice Thursday against Jake Peavy he lined several balls into the outfield.

Guillen, who turned 46 last month, is not that much older than Vizquel, who will be 43 in April. Guillen's playing career ended in 2000.

"I got more hair than he does. But he looks great and swings the bats real well," Guillen said. "He moves like he's still in his 20s."

Vizquel hit .266 with one homer and 14 RBIs in 62 games with Texas last season and had no errors. A switch-hitter, he has 2,704 career hits.

He acknowledged that as you get older, it's sometimes harder to bounce back for a day game after playing the night before. And how long he'll play, he's not sure — a lot of it will depends on his skill level.

"You have to show that you can still play," he said. "I was wondering last year if I could do it, but every time I step on the field I give it my best and I have some great results and it makes me think that I can give it another chance this year."

Vizquel's interests go well beyond the game that's so shaped his life.

He and some friends went to a wildlife refuge in Venezuela last offseason searching for anaconda and to see other wildlife. They found a huge snake and Vizquel was able to take it by the tail and eventually by the head before it was released unharmed.

Now there are other experiences ahead. Bullfighting could be one.

"I didn't do the bullfight, but I took a picture with a bullfighters uniform, which was great ... pretty amazing," he said, adding that it's still on his list.

Notes: White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf celebrated his 74th birthday Thursday and gave a tour of the team's state-of-the-art spring training facility to former Illinois governor Jim Edgar.