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Vizquel talks nutrition with students

Vizquel talks nutrition with students

Special to
TORONTO -- What if scoring the winning run meant figuring out how much added sugar is in chocolate milk?

That's exactly what happened to Omar Vizquel and a group of fifth- and sixth-grade students in a friendly game about nutrition during a visit to Dunlace Public School on Wednesday afternoon. The game was hosted by nutritionist Jennifer Sygo, as the Toronto Blue Jays provided a wholesome lunch for the entire class to enjoy, all as part of the organization's initiative to keep kids healthy and fit.

The students were divided into teams, including Vizquel and Toronto mascot Ace, with runs scored based on correct answers about healthy eating. When it came down to the third and final question, deciding which popular beverage contains the highest amount of added sugar between water, chocolate milk, iced tea and orange juice, Vizquel's team looked to him for the answer.

"What about B?" the 45-year-old asked his group, pointing them toward chocolate milk.

Though some of the members of the group seemed to disagree on the answer, they all agreed that going with the veteran Blue Jays infielder was the best idea.

Unfortunately, that didn't work out. When the answer was revealed to be iced tea, Vizquel took the blame for his group's loss.

"It's my fault guys," Vizquel said.

The loss was quickly forgotten, as the nutritional visit soon turned into a question-and-answer session between the class and the 11-time Gold Glove Award winner. The students appeared to surprise Vizquel with their hard-hitting questions, including asking what his life might have been without baseball.

"I remember when I was trying to decide, when I was 16 years old and it was my last year in high school," Vizquel said. "I was trying to decide if I wanted to play baseball or if I wanted to go to college. I enrolled myself into an economy class because I always wanted to work in one of those things where the boats come in, the big cruise ships where you see all the cranes lifting stuff.

"And then I got lucky ... and I made my decision to go and play baseball. But then after that, my whole life has been focusing on the baseball part and trying to help out my family, trying to help out my friends, and really after that, I really can't imagine my life outside of baseball. It's been my passion, my love and that's all I've been doing ever since."

It's also all Vizquel intends to do in the future, answering another question from the crowd on his plans after playing.

"I want to be a manager," he said. "At this time in my career, I think this is going to be my last year playing. So, maybe next year, I'm going to be looking at a job as a coach. I'm going to be teaching the younger guys how to play the game or the things that helped me to improve my game. And then, finally, maybe have the chance available to me to be a manager.

"And to have the final decision to say, 'OK, you, today you're going to play, and you're going to bunt, and you're going to do this.' So I want to do that someday. Why? Because we've been learning so many things through this game through all these years that I finally want to apply it somehow, and I think being a manager is the best way to do it."

One excited questioner said he hadn't slept at all on Tuesday night in anticipation of the visit. Ten-year-old Tristan got his chance to speak to the man whose name and number he had drawn up the night before and taped to a Blue Jays T-shirt he already owned. The class got to know the personal side of the longtime Major League infielder a little better when Tristan asked about Vizquel's hobbies outside of baseball.

"I love to paint," Vizquel said. "So right now I have a lot of paintings going in my house. I have pieces of paper stuck to the wall with tape, and then I draw either with crayons or with acrylic paints. And if you walk into my house, it will feel like this classroom.

"There are a lot of colours; there are a lot of things hanging out on the walls. And I really have fun painting on my own. I like to do paintings of people and things that can move -- maybe nature, that's my main hobby."

Vizquel also spoke about some of his offseason hobbies, and how he keeps in shape during the winter, while giving the kids some fitness tips to take home with them.

"It's hard during the baseball season to do any other physical activity because you're draining your energy. So you have to get your rest and learn how to eat good food so you have that energy for six months or seven months to the end of the season.

"Besides that, maybe every once in a while I go to a nightclub; I dance a little bit. I like to dance the salsa. I don't know how many of you guys like to dance, but that's a good way to keep fit. Ace dances every night at the ballpark. I know sometimes he sits on the sides because he's real tired.

"But when the season is over, I do any kind of basketball, volleyball, I play soccer, I play tennis and that's a good way to keep your body in shape all the time."

Along with keeping fit, the most important message of the day was eating healthy and balanced meals. If whole-wheat pancakes, fruit and a glass of milk are the breakfast of a Major League infielder who has been in the game for 25 years, something is working.

"No doubt," Vizquel said of nutrition's importance in being a successful athlete. "I noticed that as I started getting older, my diet had to change and had to be adjusted. Your body's not the same when you're 20, when you're 28, when you're 35. So as long as you keep getting older, you have to start eating better."

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to

Toronto Blue Jays, Omar Vizquel