Vizquel longs to play, but embraces new role

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Somewhere in the 45-year-old mind of potential future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel, there's the thought that he can still play in the Majors and at a high level.

At some point, though, all players have to deal with finality -- ageless Vizquel included.

"It's very tough. Very tough," Vizquel said of hanging up the spikes. "Obviously, it's always hard to walk away from the field when you think that you can still play. I believe that I can still play, but mentally it was pretty tough for me to go through the same things again and playing once a week, having little opportunities to play. So I just decided just to call it quits."

Vizquel played his 24th and final season in the Majors with the Blue Jays in 2012, appearing in 60 games as a backup infielder - even playing five innings at first base, as unsightly as that may seem for the legendary shortstop.

Now, he's in the first few days of his new chapter, as a roving infield instructor with the Angels.

"I always said that when I was playing that I want to be a manager when I retire," Vizquel said. "This is a good opportunity to make my first steps as a coach."

Vizquel heard about an opening in the Angels' Minor League staff through roving hitting instructor Paul Sorrento, who, like Vizquel, spends his offseasons in Seattle. The fact that general manager Jerry Dipoto was a teammate of Vizquel's in Cleveland in 1994 didn't hurt -- though, of course, neither did 11 Gold Glove Awards, three All-Star appearances, 2,877 hits and a reputation as one of the best defensive shortstops ever.

"He's thought the game, he evolved as a player and he played into his 40s, so obviously he was making some adjustments to what he was doing from the time he was 20 up to the time in his 40s," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "And I think that understanding of the process is important. Just the fact that it's Omar Vizquel, talking to a young infielder and starting to hopefully give these guys some insights that will help them."

Vizquel is in Major League camp right now, working mostly with the younger players, and will head over to the Minor League side in early March. During the season, he'll bounce around the different affiliates, taking over the role previously held by Dick Schofield, whose contract wasn't renewed, and teaming up with Bobby Knoop, the 74-year-old ex-Angels infielder who was previously brought back as a special assignment infield coach.

Vizquel's aspirations haven't changed. He still longs to be a big league manager, which Scioscia believes there's "no doubt" he can do.

And after almost a quarter century of living the rigorous Major League lifestyle, he isn't looking for a break.

"I know this is what I know the most," Vizquel said, "and I really enjoy having the uniform on, the communication with the guys and how you can control 25 different personalities. It's just an amazing thing to me to be involved with so many different people and try to be the leader of that pack, you know? So, to me, I think it comes naturally, maybe. I have the passion and I think I have the patience to go through that process, so I don't mind calling a guy to an office, or talking to him about a situation in the game that can help him out or can help the team out."