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CLEVELAND (AP) – Omar Vizquel isn’t ready to retire at age 44.
The veteran shortstop said Wednesday that he still loves the game, believes he can continue performing at a good level and intends to play for some team in 2012
“I can’t wait for spring training — wherever it may be,” said Vizquel, nearing the end of his second one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox.
Vizquel intends to return for a 24th major league season in 2012. He would be the 20th in history to play that long — Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Cap Anson share the record at 27 seasons apiece.
“I’ve got so much energy I don’t know what else I would do,” said Vizquel, a three-time All-Star and 11-time Gold Glove winner. “I still have my legs. I can still play and most of all, I still want to play.”
In 58 games entering play Wednesday, he is hitting .251 as a utility infielder this year.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he believes his fellow Venezuelan can help a team.
“He can play a few more years, if they use him the way we use him,” Guillen said. “Every time we play him, he does a lot of good things for us. It can be in the field. He can move a runner over. He contributes to help the ballclub.
“I don’t think he can play every day. I think he can help a lot, especially in a winning situation. I hope someone gives him a chance.”
Vizquel said he enjoys playing as much now as when he was a 21-year-old rookie with Seattle in 1989.
“It’s not about age, it is about how you feel,” Vizquel said. “I see guys 25 and 26 years old who play like they’re 40. Age is not a reason to retire. If I didn’t love the game, I would have left a long time ago.”
Vizquel is not looking for a big contract to pad his bank account, either.
“I don’t need $10 million to play,” he said. “I didn’t need it to get me to play 10 years ago, either. I just love baseball.”
Vizquel said climbing up the all-time leaderboard in various categories is not as important to him as being able to contribute to a team with postseason hopes. He has never won a World Series.
Vizquel, who spent 10 years in the prime of his career in Cleveland from 1994 through 2003, entered the day with 2,841 hits. That’s 45th all-time, one in back of Ivan Rodriguez and seven behind Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.
When he stepped on the field against the Indians, it was his 2,909th game, extending the record for a foreign-born player. That’s 78 more than retired Rafael Palmeiro and 132 ahead of Hall of Famer Tony Perez.
Both Guillen and Cleveland manager Manny Acta said Vizquel should be elected to the Hall of Fame, too.
“He is a Hall of Famer,” Guillen said. “I don’t see why not. He’s had a great career.”
Added Acta: “Without a doubt, because of the way he dominated at the position for a decade.”
With 41-year-old Jim Thome now back with the Indians, Vizquel reminisced about the time both spent in Cleveland in the 1990s, when the franchise went from perennial losers into an AL power.
“We didn’t sit around and think about what it would be like when we were 45 or 50 years old, but now here some of us are, and you look back and that was one of the greatest teams ever,” Vizquel said. “Kenny (Lofton), Albert Belle, Eddie Murray, Sandy (Alomar), Manny (Ramirez), you just go on and on. It was very, very special.”
Vizquel said he is sorry he will miss the Indians’ tribute to Thome on Friday night, when they honor the slugger for hitting 600 career homers.
“I’m so glad he’s still around because he played the game honestly and with respect,” Vizquel said. “That’s one of the things about being an active player, you miss some special occasions.”
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