Vizquel's newest offseason adventure: bullfighting
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
Sept. 28, 2009, 7:51PM
ARLINGTON — Omar Vizquel is done catching massive snakes. Next up, he wants to become a matador.
The Texas Rangers infielder, who last winter searched for anacondas, plans to try bullfighting when he goes home to Venezuela this winter.
“Just go and learn the basics and stuff,” Vizquel said. “It's one of my things on the to-do list. There's a lot of things still to do.”
There are few players who can match Vizquel's offseason pursuits. Among the other adventures he hopes for: parachuting, flying in an F-16 jet and attending all three Triple Crown horse races.
A grand tour to see the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes might have to wait because the 42-year-old Vizquel, already the oldest position player in the major leagues, intends to come back next year for a 22nd season.
“When I retire and have some free time, I want to do the three races,” he said.
Vizquel said Sunday that he is planning to play another season because he feels pretty good and “better take advantage of it” while he feels that way.
“It's highly unusual. But you look at him, he stays in great shape, he still moves well,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
“I don't see why not, the guy's probably in as good or better shape than anybody in this clubhouse,” Texas pitcher Kevin Millwood said. “He can still play the game. I don't see why he shouldn't.”
Vizquel has started 43 games for Texas — 21 at shortstop, 14 at second and eight at third — and has 202 fielding chances without an error, the most among any player at those positions in the major leagues. In 60 games overall, he is hitting .266. He knew when he came to Texas for $1 million last spring that he would be a part-time player and mentor to rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus, a kid half his age from Venezuela.
An 11-time Gold Glove winner, Vizquel's 2,680 games at shortstop are a major league record. Only Ozzie Smith has won more Gold Gloves at shortstop (13), but Vizquel is the only shortstop to win the award multiple times in the American and National League.
Last winter, Vizquel and some buddies went to a wildlife refuge in Venezuela in the search for anaconda and to view other wildlife as well. About four hours into their trip, they found their snake.
In a video that Vizquel shared in the Rangers clubhouse during spring training, the group's guide stepped into shallow water to grab an 11-foot anaconda by the tail and pulled it onto dry land.
The 5-foot-9 Vizquel was all smiles when he got his chance to take the agitated nonvenomous snake by the tail, and he eventually held the head of the snake, its mouth opened wide and its body coiling. The anaconda was released unharmed.
“Anacondas already done, that's a dream I've already conquered,” Vizquel said.
Now, it's time for the toros.
“Bullfighting? You are the most interesting man in the world,” Chris Davis, his 23-year-old teammate, said after overhearing the latest plans.
Vizquel, whose 2,702 hits are the most by a native of Venezuela, becomes a free agent after the season. He said he would like to come back to the Rangers, but hasn't had any conversations yet with them about that. Vizquel turns 43 on April 24.
“He's been quite an addition,” manager Ron Washington said. “Every time we've put him on that field, he's done something to help us win a game, help us perform that night. He knows how to play.”
Washington said he would be glad to have Vizquel back for another season, and didn't sound too worried about the veteran infielder facing bulls during the offseason.
“Knowing him, if they gore, he'll just take horn,” Washington said. “He'll just pull it out of his arm and keep moving.”
In other news, did anyone read about Chuck Knoblauch? He was arrested for assault after he punched, beat, and choked his soon to be ex-wife.......