LAKELAND, Fla. -- One of the greatest Venezuelan-born players in Major League history will try to lead the next generation of Venezuelan talent to long-awaited international success. Omar Vizquel, who captained Team Venezuela in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, will serve as the team's manager in next year's Classic.
Vizquel confirmed the appointment Thursday morning, saying he was looking forward to the opportunity, before the Tigers made the formal announcement in a press release Thursday afternoon. It's a much-anticipated opportunity for Vizquel, who broke into the coaching ranks with future managerial aspirations when he became the Tigers' first-base coach in 2014.
Vizquel's playing credentials are undisputable. An 11-time Gold Glove recipient, the Caracas native was a three-time All-Star as a member of the Indians. He also owns the second-highest all-time career fielding percentage (.985) among big league shortstops (minimum 1,000 games), ranks first in career games played as a shortstop (2,709) and is 12th all-time in total games played (2,968).
Vizquel played for the Mariners, Indians, Giants, Rangers, White Sox and Blue Jays before retiring following the 2012 season. While he has returned to Venezuela to coach in winter ball, he spent one season as an infield instructor in the Angels organization before coming to Detroit to join the coaching staff of Brad Ausmus, who took a similar path. Ausmus managed Team Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, his only previous managerial experience before the Tigers hired him from the Padres, where he had been a special assistant in the front office.
Vizquel has also been an influential figure for Venezuelan-born players showing awareness for social causes with their country marked by political and economic unrest. He also understands what success on the baseball diamond can mean for the population.
If Vizquel can help his homeland meet the lofty expectations it carried in previous Classics, he could become the next managerial commodity. Despite some of the game's biggest stars and a third-place finish in 2009, Venezuela was eliminated from the last World Baseball Classic in first-round pool play four years ago.
Among the players who took part were Miguel Cabrera, Salvador Perez, Carlos Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Anibal Sanchez and Elvis Andrus. Vizquel's appointment could be incentive for Cabrera, whom Vizquel coaches among Tigers infielders, to play in a fourth World Baseball Classic at age 33.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.