For the first time in his 24-year major league career, Omar Vizquel is suiting up for a Canadian team.
The likely Hall of Famer, who will turn 45 on April 24, won the Toronto Blue Jays’ utility infielder’s job over Mike McCoy.
But though the 11-time Gold Glove Award winner hasn’t called Canada his big league home until this season, he has established several Canadian links over the course of his professional career.
Here’s a summary of some of those links, as well as some interesting trivia from Vizquel’s Cooperstown-worthy career:
The Blue Jays might be the first major league club that Vizquel has competed for in Canada, but earlier in his career, he hit .231 in 94 games over four seasons with the Mariners’ triple-A affiliate Calgary Cannons (1988 to 1990, 1992).
He made his major league debut on April 3, 1989 with the Mariners, batting ninth and playing shortstop against the reigning American League champion Oakland A’s. His debut was overshadowed by the fact that it was also Ken Griffey Jr.’s first game. Vizquel would face onetime Jay Dave Stewart in his initial at bat and fly out to Dave Henderson in centre field.
Vizquel is the only active big leaguer to have played in Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium. The sure-handed shortstop went 1 for 7 in one of the final series at the now defunct Toronto ballpark from May 8 to May 10, 1989.
Vizquel is, of course, the only active Jay to have faced manager John Farrell. The Venezuelan infielder went 4 for 14 off of Farrell and was also a teammate of his current dugout boss with the Indians for one game in 1995.
The venerable infielder has been teammates with six Canadians during his career: Mike Gardiner, Sarnia, Ont., Seattle, 1990; Nigel Wilson, Oshawa, Ont., Cleveland, 1996; Aaron Myette, New Westminster, B.C., Cleveland, 2003; Jesse Crain, Toronto, Ont., Chicago, 2011; Mark Teahen, Canadian citizen, Chicago, 2011; and Brett Lawrie, Langley, B.C., Toronto, 2012.
Of the Canadian hurlers Vizquel has faced, he has had the most success off of Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.). The three-time all-star is 6 for 14 (.429 batting average) off of the Cubs right-hander.
Conversely, the Canuck pitcher Vizquel struggled the most against was 2012 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Rheal Cormier (Cape Pele, N.B.). Vizquel was just one for 13 off of the Acadian southpaw.
Vizquel fared particularly well against four pitchers that have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The 5-foot-9 infielder hit a combined .357 in 42 at bats against Bert Blyleven, Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage and Nolan Ryan.
While Vizquel is set to turn 45 in just over a week, he’s not the oldest active big leaguer. That distinction goes to 49-year-old Rockies left-hander Jamie Moyer. For the record, Vizquel has 23 hits off of Moyer – that’s the second most (to Brad Radke) that he has registered off of any big league pitcher.