Cleveland still special for Vizquel

CLEVELAND -- Ten years have passed since former shortstop Omar Vizquel wore the red, white and blue uniform of the Cleveland Indians, but even today, Cleveland is still a special place for the newest member of the franchise's Hall of Fame.

In fact, when talking about his induction into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame, Vizquel said there was "no doubt about it" that playing for the Tribe was the highlight of his baseball career, which spanned 24 years in the Major Leagues.

"It was really cool," Vizquel said. "Very few times will you see people give standing ovations for players making a defensive play. When we were making some of those double plays, people got really excited. They'd stand up and clap.

"It's a great satisfaction when you could see the people enjoying the performance that you could give them on the field. I think it's one of the greatest feelings that you can get. It's easy to clap and cheer when somebody hits a home run, but very few times you see it when people do it defensively."

If Vizquel ever forgot how beloved he was by Indians fans, he received a reminder at a toll booth along the Turnpike on his way from Detroit to Cleveland on Thursday.

"I'm amazed sometimes how people still think about those days and how people still recognize you no matter where you're at," Vizquel said. "I was driving from Detroit to Cleveland, and I stopped in Sandusky to get something to drink. At the little place where you take your ticket, this lady went crazy.

"I stopped there and got my ticket and she recognized me, 'Oh, my God. I can't believe it's Omar. Please get out of the car and take a picture?' It was something that I couldn't believe. The whole World Series thing, and the whole Cleveland era was in the 1990s, and we had some great teams. Here we are, in 2014, and people still remember the name, remember the face. It's really a blessing to come to Cleveland and just share time with buddies and talk about the years from the '90s."

During Vizquel's time with the Indians, he was a part of a team that won the American League Central Division six times, made seven trips to the postseason, twice won the AL Pennant, and came within an out of winning the 1997 World Series.

Vizquel said he thinks about the runs to the 1995 and 1997 World Series "every time that I walk into Cleveland," but does not look at what could have been. Rather, he chooses to remember the closeness of the teams that came within a handful of games of two championships.

"You always have it in the back of your heart and in the back of your mind because those really were the best times for me as a player, being in the World Series and being on those great teams," Vizquel said. "When you get out of a team and you get back, you say, 'Wow. I can't believe that I played with that guy, and this guy, and the other guy.' It was just a great group of people that you could get together. You don't see that very often.

"When you've got winning teams like that, and they stick together for a while, it's very hard to keep them together, especially with the business way they handle the Major Leagues. I just saw Charles Nagy this afternoon, and it looked like I just played with him last week. Every time I see Kenny or Carlos or Sandy (Alomar Jr.), it's just a great feeling to see those guys.

"My game, I think, got better. I started believing in myself a lot more. Being around Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Baerga, Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser, all these great players, it just gives you relief and great confidence about yourself. These are guys that belong in any Hall of Fame, and it was just great to be around them."


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