Former Indians Omar Vizquel, Carlos Baerga reunite at Progressive Field
CLEVELAND — Opening Day at Progressive Field brought about a reunion of former Indians infielders.
Jays utility infielder Omar Vizquel, who awed Tribe fans for 11 years with his dazzling defense at shortstop, began his 24th — and perhaps final — season in the Major Leagues on Thursday.
Carlos Baerga, who manned second base for Cleveland from 1990-96 and in 1999, has been representing the club as an alumni ambassador. He caught the ceremonial first pitch.
“It’s something special,” Baerga said. “I haven’t been here on Opening Day since I played here. To be here today is something really good for me.”
Baerga and Vizquel shared a few laughs and reminisced about their time together during the Tribe’s glory days of the ’90s.
Baerga can’t believe the 11-time Gold Glove winner is still chugging along at the ripe age of 44. Vizquel is one-and-a-half years older than Baerga.
“He’s amazing. He’s a great player and he stays in great shape,” Baerga said. “I said, ‘Man, what’s going on? You’re making me look bad.’”
The Indians have welcomed several players from that era back to the organization. Sandy Alomar Jr. is the team’s bench coach. Kenny Lofton assisted with outfielders and baserunning as a guest instructor during Spring Training. Even Albert Belle, who maintained a hot-and-cold relationship with the club and its fans, made an appearance in Goodyear, Ariz.
“It’s awesome,” Baerga said. “The Cleveland Indians have started doing what the New York Yankees used to do, bringing in the old guys to be with the young players. I’m really proud to do it.”
Vizquel was busy securing a spot on Toronto’s Opening Day roster, so he couldn’t join his former teammates in Spring Training. But seeing his old pals in their new roles has him hopeful for a spot in Cleveland once he finally opts to hang up his cleats.
“I’d like to [be in Cleveland],” Vizquel said. “The Indians have a special place in my heart.”