White Sox

Sox Drawer: The Curious Case of Omar Vizquel

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Sox Drawer: The Curious Case of Omar Vizquel

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
Posted 7:44 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - In life, there is something called an aging process. Its a pretty simple concept that is shared by every single human being walking the planet.

Well, except for one person: Omar Vizquel.

The 43-year-old infielder, who turns 44 in April, is here at Camelback Ranch not just defying the odds, but quite possibly modern science as we know it.

Im getting older and older, and I question myself, 'How long is it going to be and when will it be the time? Vizquel said in front of his locker, a wide, childish smile beeming from his face. So far so good.

Vizquel has come so far, and been so good for 22 seasons, putting together a Hall of Fame worthy career that seems to have no end.

Some might say he drinks from the Fountain of Youth - I disagree. Upon closer examination, Im pretty sure he bathes in it.

You just have to admire how hes gone about it for all these years, said White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, whose first order of business during the off-season was signing Vizquel to a second one-year contract. Hell, I played against him. I havent played in 17 years!

How long has Vizquel been in the majors? Heres an indication:

The year he entered the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 1989, George Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan as President, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and Gordon Beckham turned three years old.

You talk about a guy who loves the game, Beckham said. Him being around just makes people better because of what he brings to the game, the energy he brings to the game. I mean hes 43, about to turn 44, and hes got more energy than anybody in here.

I like to have fun with Vizquels knack of staying so young, often comparing him to the main character in the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," about a man who magically aged backwards.

So I posed this question to Omar: Is everyone around you getting older, and youre somehow getting younger?

Inside Im not getting older. Inside, Im 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. Its like your conscience is telling you that you cant do the things you were doing 10 years ago.

But last year seemed to tell him otherwise. He batted .276 in 108 games, collecting the most runs, hits, doubles, RBIs and stolen bases since 2007. Plus, the 11-time Gold Glove winner made only three errors in the field while playing second base, third base and shortstop.

Omar takes great care of himself, and hes kind of an artist out there, Williams said. Hes the piano player whos never going to lose the touch of the keys.

Well put.

My hands are the one thing that has kept me in the game for a long time, Vizquel explained. 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.

Something tells me he will.

But how much longer can he keep playing? When I asked him if he can go another three or four years, he joked, I dont even know about next week! At this point, hes taking it year-by-year, and is not looking too far ahead.

However, there is a certain milestone that is stored in the back of his mind and is possibly within reach. Vizquel is closing in on 3,000 career hits, a monumental number for a major league player, often a necessary key in gaining entrance to the Hall of Fame.

Youre about 200 hits away, right? a reporter asked.

201, Vizquel quickly answered with a laugh.

Will he get there?

Knowing Omar, it's only a matter of time.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

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USA TODAY

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USA TODAY

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