The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Joe Rutter on the long awaited reunion of former teammates Jose Mesa and Omar Vizquel.
Aware that he could encounter his nemesis for the first time in three years, Omar Vizquel is bringing extra protection to PNC Park this weekend.
Not protection in the form of a beefy security guard or police escort.
Vizquel, the San Francisco Giants shortstop, is bringing protective uniform equipment in case he has to step into the batters box while Pirates closer Jose Mesa (above) is pitching.
That includes a double-flap batting helmet.
“I’m going to wear some extra padding because I’m not going to take any chances,” Vizquel said. “If he hits me, I’ll be ready. He still throws hard.”
The next phase of a mostly one-sided feud between Mesa and Vizquel could play out during this upcoming three-game series. Mesa, though, said he has no intention of escalating his grudge with his former Cleveland Indians teammate.
He insists he has no plan of hitting Vizquel in the head, back or any other body part.
“He’s a professional. I’m a professional,” Mesa said. “He’s going to play his game, and I’m going to pitch my game. What happened is in the past. It’s over.”
Two years ago, Mesa made national headlines when he told a Philadelphia reporter he wanted to kill Vizquel over an excerpt in the shortstops autobiography. He interpreted a passage as Vizquel saying Mesa choked during Game 7 of the 1997 World Series when he failed to protect a ninth-inning lead against the Florida Marlins.
This week, Mesa said his threats toward Vizquel were blowing out of proportion.
“I’m not that type of person,” he said. “I’m not stupid enough to try to kill somebody and then go to jail.”
Still, Mesa said he has no interest in renewing his friendship with Vizquel.
“I don’t talk to him,” he said. “I have nothing to say to him, and I hope he has nothing to say to me.”
The relationship began to sour in 1998 when Vizquel homered off Mesa during an intrasquad spring training game and did a cartwheel as he crossed home plate. An angered Mesa vowed to hit Vizquel the next time he faced him.