Omar Vizquel eager to launch managerial career in White Sox’ system

SHARE Omar Vizquel eager to launch managerial career in White Sox’ system

Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome, who played for the White Sox during brilliant careers and are now in the organization as a minor league manager and special assistant to the general manager, share a moment Friday at the Sox’ spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz. (Photo by Daryl Van Schouwen)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Manager Rick Renteria spotted Omar Vizquel walking past his office at the White Sox’ spring-training facility Friday, gave a yell out the door and waved him in.

Vizquel, one of the all-time great defensive shortstops in the majors, sat down for a half-hour and talked baseball.

‘‘He asked me a couple of things about some players,’’ said Vizquel, 50, who will manage the Sox’ Class A team at Winston-Salem this season.

Vizquel, who is working toward becoming a big-league manager, likely will ask Renteria some things about the job.

‘‘He’s awesome,’’ Vizquel said. ‘‘We broke in together in the big leagues when we were in Seattle. We’ve known each other a long time.’’

Renteria would go on to have an uneventful career, batting .237 in five seasons as an infielder with the Pirates, Mariners and Marlins. Vizquel would play in 2,968 games and retire at age 45 with 2,877 hits and 11 Gold Gloves.

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But Renteria had an early impact on Vizquel, treating him in a way that stuck with him throughout his career.

‘‘As soon as I walked in [to the Mariners’ clubhouse in 1988], he knew I was one of the young guys,’’ said Vizquel, who was born in Venezuela. ‘‘He said: ‘Hey, my name is Richie, nice to meet you. Whatever you need, let me know. I can translate [the language] for you.’ The impact that he had was great.’’

Fast-forward to 2018. Vizquel, who earned a solid 37 percent of the vote on his first Hall of Fame ballot in January, is hoping to use his strong people and communication skills to land a job like Renteria’s.

‘‘I know it’s going to be tough,’’ said Vizquel, who’s willing to pay his dues in the lower minors after enjoying the big-league life since 1989. ‘‘There is a lot of competition, but I know with the knowledge and experiences I have — both good and bad — I can probably work it out.

‘‘You look at every manager, they are a person above everything else. As a person, they know how to treat people and to relate to things. And I think that I can do that.’’

Vizquel, who spent the last four seasons as the Tigers’ first-base coach and had added responsibilities for infielders and baserunning, said he learned a lot about the expectations for managing when he interviewed for the Tigers’ vacancy during the offseason.

At Winston-Salem, there’s a good chance Vizquel will oversee top prospects Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo, with whom he has had almost daily conversations.

‘‘Today he was giving me tips on the bases that were helpful,’’ Adolfo said Friday. ‘‘He has a great amount of knowledge and experience. There’s definitely respect. He’s a real professional and mentor for young guys like us.’’

Players who had marginal careers, such as Renteria, often make the best managers; star players, such as Vizquel, sometimes don’t. Vizquel said he doesn’t consider himself in the latter class because he wasn’t touted as a prospect and had to work tirelessly to perfect his craft.

‘‘I never believed I would be on the Hall of Fame ballot,’’ Vizquel said. ‘‘When I signed, I was a little guy — 160 pounds — a right-handed hitter who didn’t start switch-hitting until I was 20 years old, one year before I made it to the big leagues. Twenty-four years later, we’re talking about 2,800 hits, 11 Gold Gloves, almost 3,000 games, all this stuff you did in your career. It took a lot of determination, time, attitude, adjustments and sacrificing your ego to be part of a team.’’

Vizquel said managing will be about communicating and teaching players ‘‘to play the game the right way.’’

‘‘Even the big-leaguers [in camp], they make mistakes, and you maybe correct them or help them do things in a different way that may benefit them,’’ Vizquel said. ‘‘It doesn’t matter if you make $10 million or you’re a young guy just signed in the minors, the instruction is going to be the same. You still have to play the game the right way. Do it better. That’s my job.’’

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.


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