Book Review: Omar!

For Indians fans of the 1990’s there was no one who defined the era more than Omar Vizquel. The gregarious shortstop awed fans with his plays with the glove, earning him nine Gold Glove awards by the time he published his auto-biography with Bob Dyer of the Akron Beacon Journal. As the book title eludes, Omar!: My Life On and Off The Field, Vizquel had grown to be one of those rare athletes who, at least in Northeast Ohio, could be identified by one name. Say, “Omar,” on the streets of Carnegie and Ontario and everyone knew who you were talking about.

The book was written during Vizquel’s tenure with the Indians and was published in 2002. While at many points in the book, it seems Omar thinks he is near the end, we now know he played many more years with various other teams. Perhaps a part two is warranted at this point. In any event, Vizquel is very open throughout the book and gives personal accounts of things on and off the diamond as the title of the book says he would. He even talks about seemingly small details such as why he prefers rubber spikes to metal spikes and the preferred size of his mitt.

Speaking of his mitt, Omar takes particular time throughout the book to talk about the relationship he has with his glove every year. Known for his glove work, in fact it could be what gets him into the Baseball Hall of Game one day, it probably isn’t surprising that he would have a certain affinity for his glove. His goal is to use the same mitt for an entire season. Break it in during spring training, and then use it all year for every practice and every game, retiring it at the end of the season. He recounts a season which started uncharacteristically riddled with errors and led to him making the decision to change gloves to somehow give him a fresh start.  Although he clearly believes it is the right decision, the way he talks about switching gloves is as if he is breaking up with his girlfriend instead of exchanging one hunk of leather for another. Almost as if he had let the glove down.

While not known for his bad, readers will be surprised to learn he was once accused of corking a bat. The accusation ended up coming his way indirectly, but not wanting to spoil the story, this reviewer will let you pick up the book to find out.

Vizquel covers much of his journey to America and the Minor Leagues and his start with the Seattle Mariners before getting traded to the Indians. Omar comes off in the book just as one would imagine if they watch him on the baseball field, with lots of energy and an extremely positive outlook. The reader will laugh and cringe when he shares stories of his childhood such as the time he put the cat in the clothes drier (unclear whether this was entirely on purpose or not). Readers will also delight in the many layers of Vizquel as he talks about his passion of the arts and his own paintings as well as his time taking classes at the local community college and his love for his favorite car, a yellow Porsche.

The book is fun loving and is hard to put down. Regardless of whether the reader has a connection through fandom to Vizquel himself, it is worth the read. There are many player told auto biographies out there, and this is one of the more entertaining this reviewer has read.

The 251-page work was published by Grey and Company Publishers in Cleveland.

Baseball Reflections Rating: 4/5

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