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Bees: Eyes set on becoming MLB manager, former All-Star helps in Salt Lake

Published July 20, 2013 10:28 pm

Baseball • Vizquel wants to work his way up to manager.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Omar Vizquel wanted a seat in the shade.

"It's hot," he said, taking off his cap and wiping the sweat from his face with a sinewy forearm, gray dotting his close-cut hair.

The 24-year major league veteran and 11-time Gold Glove winner had worked up a lather pitching batting practice to the Salt Lake Bees prior to their 7-6 win Saturday against the Sacramento River Cats at Spring Mobile Ballpark.

In his prime, Vizquel — along with another acrobatic shortstop, Ozzie Smith — was considered the absolute best of his era. He retired last season with the best career fielding percentage by a shortstop with at least 1,000 games played, .985.

Now, the 46-year-old Vizquel is on the road back to the big leagues, this time as a coach or, preferably, a manager.

This road is not glamorous, as a roving instructor for the Los Angeles Angels.

"I thought the process was going to be easier," he said, sitting in the passenger seat of a tractor used to groom the playing field. "I was in the big leagues a long time. 'Why do I have to go down to the minor leagues again, just relearn what I already learned?' But there are a lot of guys in front of you who have put in their time as managers and coaches and you have to respect that."

After "being spoiled" for 24 years, Vizquel rediscovered and learned to appreciate the grind of minor league baseball. He's also seen the change from a quarter-century ago when players in the low minors had to rake the field and take care of their own laundry.

Though there are no minor league bus rides these days for Vizquel, who jets to each stop along the Angels' minor league system, he marvels at the way the game has changed.

"The facilities nowadays are a long way from when I played," he said. "I never remembered Single A or rookie ball being as nice as they are now. Players have psychologists and all this stuff."

Vizquel is also part psychologist as well as a defensive guru. He's ready to teach whoever is willing to learn, whether it is hitting grounders with a fungo bat or just talking baseball.

The three-time All-Star, who has the third most hits all-time by a shortstop — only Derek Jeter and Honus Wagner have more — has a lot to teach.

"My final goal is to manage in the big leagues someday," Vizquel said. "So far, this has worked out pretty good."

martyr@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribmarty —

Storylines Bees 7, River Cats 6

R Salt Lake starter Jarrett Grube allows seven hits and three runs in five innings.

• Roberto Lopez hits a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to put Salt Lake on top.