Set to start his 22nd season in the major leagues, White Sox utility man Omar Vizquel looks as young as ever.
Even more impressive is his desire, as the soon-to-be 44-year-old worked out with more vigor than ever this offseason.
Currently on a one-year contract that he signed shortly after the 2010 season, Vizquel could end up deciding that this will be his farewell year. Then again, there is one tantalizing milestone sitting just out of reach that could keep him around a bit longer.
Vizquel met with the media Sunday morning to talk about the reason for his longevity, the tricks he uses to motivate himself and his chances of making the Hall of Fame.
How does it feel to be back?
Omar Vizquel: Well, it feels great. It’s always exciting to come on the first day and try to see the new guys you will be around with for the next three weeks or four weeks. Who knows, maybe they will make the team. It’s really exciting for me to have another year. I’m getting older and older and I question myself, 'How long will it be and when will it be the time?' So far so good, man. I feel very, very good. The health is great. I have a great offseason with my training and the body is holding on so as long as that’s OK, I think I will continue to do what I do best.
Julio Franco played until he was 48. Do you want to challenge that?
OV: Everybody is different. Julio played a position that was easier for his body. He played first base, DH, pinch hitting. I’m not going to be able to do those kinds of things. My job is on the field playing second, third, short. My hands are the one that keep me in the game for a long time. I said that a hundred times. As long as my legs are able to reach and jump and do the crazy stuff that the infielders do, I have a chance to make the team.
Would you have still wanted to play if the White Sox didn’t offer you a deal?
OV: I think so, yeah. I think your body is the No. 1 thing for me this time. As long as the body can hold on, I’m going to continue to play somewhere.
Did all the playing time last season take more of a toll on your body?
OV: Not at all. There were some days, obviously, day games after night games where your body still needed a little more time to recover. But I think that I didn’t have any problems. I didn’t have any complaints. I’d go in the training rooms and get massages and go in the Jacuzzi and loosen up your body. It was great. I didn’t surprise myself because I know the kind of training I do to play 162 games. You have to treat your body like you’re going to play every day and I did that.
How much of an influence was Ozzie Guillen on returning?
OV: Well it was a no-brainer for me. I had a good year with the White Sox. I played my role very well and played some third base, second base, shortstop. Whenever they needed me I was there. I adjusted to the ballpark and the fans. I like this city and I played well. If they were going to offer me a contract I was going to say, ‘Of course I want to come back.’ That’s exactly what happened.
Do you do more in the offseason now, or less, than earlier in your career?
OV: You have to do more because when you hit spring training and hit the season, you don’t have the same time and the same stamina to go through the workout training that you have to do in the offseason. So you probably spend an extra half hour to 45 minutes in the gym in the offseason.
Do you still have the same love for baseball as earlier in your career?
OV: I still have the same love but the hardest part is the motivation part because your roles change. You’ve been here for a long time and you know what to expect. Sometimes spring training games get kind of boring for you so you have to find that different drive to get over the hump and say ‘OK, what can I do to motivate myself?' Is it going to be maybe a great play? Is it going to be maybe stealing two bases in a game? You have to do something out of the ordinary every day to kind of push yourself.
Do you think about 3,000 hits since you are about 200 away?
OV: 201. (laughs) I’ve given it a thought, but it’s going to be really hard. It all depends on what I’m going to do this year. Maybe if I get 80 hits this year, maybe I can push it for another year if I feel good, but I’m not thinking about it really.
Do you think about making the Hall of Fame?
OV: People always bring up that question. As long as you’re still playing, it’s hard for you to [calculate] the numbers and who’s there and who goes in and who’s voting and all that. I figure that my career has been pretty good so far to compete with the guys that I’m going to be [candidates] on that particular year. It’s up to [the voters]. It’s not up to me anymore.
You continue to look the same age. Is everybody else getting younger while you stay the same?
OV: I know that inside, I’m not getting older. Inside, I’m still the same kid that likes to dive for balls and play with dirt and be fooling around with the kids. Obviously biology tells me something different. It’s like your conscience is telling you that you can’t do the things you were doing 10 years ago. But as long as your spirit is up and happy and you have the desire to come every day and do this for another seven months, I think that I have a good part of the war won.