Standing outside the visitor's clubhouse at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, I saw a familiar face sitting on a John Deere tractor, smoking on a cigarette and talking on a cell phone this morning.
I double-checked with an official from the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic delegation.
"Hey, there's a guy walking around who looks a lot like George Bell," I said.
I pass the George Bell Recognition Test — my sense of 1980s Blue Jays is unparalleled — because it was the man himself. In this pic, he's middle-left, with D.R. GM Stan Javier to his right with his hands out.
George Bell, 1987 AL MVP, what have you been up to?
"I do a little bit of everything," Bell said, cigarette out and phone put away.
Best thing about meeting Bell? Finding that he still wears his cap high on his head. It's placed there elegantly.
Bell, who turns 50 this year, was on the vanguard of the Dominican baseball player invasion of 25 years ago. A contemporary player who reminds me of Bell... probably would be Jose Guillen. Both have reputations for being moody, even cantankerous.
Bell had some spectacular moments as a hitter, mostly in his time with the Blue Jays. He hit three home runs against Bret Saberhagen on opening day in 1988, a feat which came right after his MVP year. He finished with 265 career homers in 12 seasons, the last being 1993 with the White Sox.
Now he's on the D.R.'s committee assisting Javier, who has quite a lot of on his plate running this team.
"I'm over here with the WBC, and playing a lot of golf, and doing some business (his family still owns gas stations) down in the Dominican," Bell said. "Having fun."
Bell said he wishes he had a tournament like the WBC when he was playing.
"I ran away to be a professional, so I really had to represent my country when I was playing over [in the majors]," Bell said. "This kind of event is different — it's for a world championship. We have a great opportunity to win it."
Bell said his baseball career didn't end how he wanted it to. He signed with the Cubs as a free agent in 1991 and was traded the next season to the White Sox for Sammy Sosa.
Bell said he enjoyed some of his time in Chicago but being on a losing team such as the Cubs soured him quickly.
"I wish I handled some things better," Bell said. "There were misunderstandings. I was a winner in Toronto and losing upset me."
Bell's become quite a golfer, he says. A 2-handicap.
"I'm very good at it," Bell said. "Golf is a game of real patience and tempo. I ... have a little bit of what is needed to play the game."
Is golf easier than baseball? The ball's just sitting there on a tee.
"No, no. It's a lot harder than playing baseball," Bell said. "Believe it."
And why are you "George" and not "Jorge"?
"That's my name," Bell said. "I was born with ‘George.' That's my given name. My family is from the British and Holland colonies. That's why I'm George. No ‘Jorge.' George is English. Jorge is Spanish."