The Blue Jays arrived in what was Vizquel’s home for 11 seasons on a Tuesday night.
They worked out Wednesday, opened the season Thursday, had Friday off before playing Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Vizquel spent his free time in Cleveland visiting the Morgan Paper Conservatory, the Keith Berr Studio, Zygote Press: A Fine Art printmaking workshop, Superior Hot Glass, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Cleveland Institute of Art and The Western Reserve Historical Society featuring the work of Giancarlo Calicchia.
“Omar is three things: a student, an artist and a collector,” says Alenka Banco, an artist and community activist as she negotiates through the Tremont area in her green jeep, from one studio to another.
“Omar doesn’t buy because he has money, he buys because he respects and understands a process, he looks at a piece of art and says ‘I love the work.’ While some players go out at night, then sleep in, Omar is out discovering a city through its artists.
“It gives me goose bumps talking about it.”
At age 44, Vizquel is Mr. Utility for the Jays. He can play all infield positions and his name showed in the box score opening day as playing left field ... although manager John Farrell literally used him as his fifth infielder.
When rattled Jays lefty Luis Perez almost threw a ball to the screen with a runner on first in the 13th inning for ball one, Vizquel trotted to the mound.
“I told him to relax and if he threw to first to give me a good throw, don’t do anything tricky,” Vizquel said. “Young guys will worry about picking a guy off, throw the ball in the corner and then we lose the game. We didn’t want to pick him off — just keep him close.”
He can do it all.
And off the field too.
When it comes to art, Vizquel is interested in bronze sculpting, print making, painting, glass blowing, drawing, stone sculpting, modelling clay and collecting one-of-a-kind art books.
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Vizquel’s love of art in Cleveland goes back to 2003, although in 1994 during the MLB strike and without anything to do he pulled out a canvas and began painting without instruction.
He was at the 806 Wine Bar in the Tremont area of Cleveland that night in 2003. He admired a Tree of Life sculpture to the owner.
“I asked the owner who the artist was,” Vizquel said. “He said the man’s gallery was down the street.”
Vizquel left a note asking to set up an appointment.
Sculptor Giancarlo Calicchia found the note the next time he went into his working gallery.
“Yeah, right,” Calicchia thought.
The Cleveland Indians all-star shortstop wanted to talk to him ... about art.
Six weeks later Vizquel asked again and this time the wine bar owner told Calicchia to return the call — it really was Vizquel calling.
It was the start of a 10-year relationship, as Calicchia became Vizquel’s mentor.
“Giancarlo explained metals to me, how to work the pneumatic drill and saws, they’re diamond tipped, you can cut your hands in an instant — and I make my living with my hands,” Vizquel said. “He also taught me about life.”
Vizquel, accompanied Calicchia, Banco, and their son, Biagi, on a trip to Italy.
“Here we are standing on the Spanish Steps in Rome,” Banco said of the wide staircase between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, “and someone comes up and says ‘hey aren’t you Omar Vizquel?’”
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What is Vizquel best at?
Banco says sketching.
“He always has his sketch book with him, I believe you’re best at what you work at most,” she said.
It is tough to get on a plane with stone, a 12-piece tool set, a shaping and patterning sculpting thumb, a flexcut mallet, loop and ribbon tools or a kemper fettling knive.
They are some of the tools of his off-the-field trades.
“I really believe he has progressed in painting,” Blanco said.
Later, Vizquel is asked what discipline he’s best at. He agrees with Banco.
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Liz Maugins is the executive director of Zygote Press on 30th Street.
Vizquel has been there getting his hands dirty ... with ink.
“One day was an international day in here,” Maugins says waving to the 6,500 square foot studio behind her which contains Vandercook proof presses, chemistry for zinc and copper plates, a print dryer and old newspaper presses.
“We had someone from Germany there, someone from Italy there and a Venezuelan here,” Maugins said. “Some artists like solitude. They don’t want to be bothered talking to anyone else.
“Omar is an extrovert. When he was finished his print he bounced around to the others to see what they are doing, how they were coming along. He seeks out and searches.”
Once Vizquel finished with his print, done for an Institute fund raiser, and signed his bon à tirer the printing of the copies began.
“I told Omar we call it a BAT ... a bat,” Maugins said.
Blanco is Vizquel’s tour guide, calling a gallery to set up an appointment and saying “I’ll be dropping by ... with my friend Omar,” intentionally not saying his last name.
They visited Keith Berr’s studio photography exhibit on Wednesday.
“As we’re leaving Keith says ‘that man looks so familiar,’” said Blanco. “I told him is was Omar Vizquel.”
As we’re driving Blanco gets a call, an elderly man, who has been collecting one-of-a-kind, art books since 1955, is willing to sell.
Another addition to Vizquel’s tour.
“Omar doesn’t buy on impulse, he studies, he understands and then he buys,” Blanco said.
At the Institute he posed with an old bulldozer, which artist David Cole gutted, turning it into a music box.
“It played a melody,” the infielder said. “It was amazing how an ugly machine like that could make such nice sounds.”
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Blanco was driving down 33rd Street one day in 2001 when she passed St. Josaphat Catholic Church, constructed in 1913. The church was set for demolition.
It had fallen into disrepair. Much of the roof was missing. The boiler did not work.
Still, Blanco had a vision, she bought the church from the diocese. Now, the beautiful building is known as the Josaphat Arts Hall. And the Convivium 33 when Blanco gives a show.
“Omar tries to make my shows,” says Blanco standing in the nave of the former church with its arched ceiling.
She points to a picture of a recent showing ... paintings on the walls, tables of hors d’oeuvres between the pillars and a crowd of art lovers milling about.
“We had about 400 people here to a show last year and in walks Omar, the White Sox were in town,” said Blanco.
And as for his previous visits to Toronto, his new home?
Vizquel said he has visited Toronto galleries.
He has been to Toronto museums.
“I would love to get involved with local artists and individuals,” he says.
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Each piece Vizquel has collected is documented: the city, what team he was with and the piece itself.
For 23 years he has travelled to major league stadia by night and art galleries by day.
“There is a story behind every art object he has,” Blanco says,
“Stories he can tell his children ... that’s what he’s going to be known for in 100 years.”
There will be a bronze plaque hanging in upstate New York 100 years from now too.