My Name is Oney: Making My Mark in the Guillen World
(Welcome to part I of a III part profile and interview series with Oney Guillen)
MLBreports: Here is the scenario: Put 10 baseball fans in a room. The degrees of knowledge and experience in the group vary. It’s irrelevant. State to these fans one singular word: “Guillen”. Ask the focus group to indicate their first reaction and response. The Likely result, 10 out of 10 times will be “Ozzie”. Go ahead and try it. Use any scale of testing group that you like. 100. 1000. It doesn’t matter. Ozzie will win out every time. Now imagine your name is Oney and your father is Ozzie. You have two brothers, Ozzie Jr. and Ozney. Your last name is Guillen. As one of the sons to the great Ozzie Guillen, imagine trying to come out from under that shadow, especially with the two brothers trying to do the same thing as you. I would imagine this is pretty difficult, perhaps impossible. But then again, you don’t know Oney Guillen. Some of you might think that you do, but the truth is that “unless you walk in the shoes of a man” as the old adage goes, you will never truly know him. So, let’s take a walk in the shoes of the aforementioned Oney Guillen. While Ozzie may have left big shoes to fill in baseball, Oney has taken the non-traditional route and chosen a completely different pair to walk his journey in the game of life. The imprints are already there and the roads in his career remain limitless. This is the story of Oney Guillen as he makes his mark in the Guillen world.
I initially corresponded with Oney one evening via twitter. I replied as a follower to a comment that Oney had tweeted and he replied. We conversed on twitter for some time on baseball. A few minutes later Oney followed me. Ozzie Jr. followed a couple of minutes later. Oney and I struck up a friendship that has continued to evolve ever since. I commented on a child in one of Oney’s pictures that I mistook as his daughter and turned out to be his niece. She turned out to be similar in age to my own son. We discussed our mutual love of children, life and most of all, baseball. I was instantly drawn to Oney’s charisma and zest for life. A regular chip off the old block I thought. I admittedly did not know Oney well yet at this point. But as I got to know him and later interview him for this article, I was left in awe of the man that he was and the amount of baseball life that he had already lived at such a tender, young age. As our discussions continued and grew, so did my interest in his story.
I was exposed to Ozzie and Oney at different stages of my life. Ozzie, in fact, I have met in person on a couple of different occasions, both as s a player in the early 1990’s with the Chicago White Sox and later as a manager with the same South Siders in 2006. Our first encounter was at a local hotel lobby when Ozzie was a young player signing autographs. I found him to be young, polite and friendly to the fans. As a manager, Ozzie and I met briefly at an MLB sponsored party after the home run derby in Pittsburgh. Ozzie was the center of attention at his table, hanging out with family and friends including Miguel Cabrera, then of the Florida Marlins. We spoke several words that night, but, again, Ozzie was nothing but polite and courteous. A strong character and often rough image is portrayed to MLB fans by the media when it comes to Ozzie Guillen. But without knowing contexts and scenarios, how many of us really know Ozzie Guillen- the man behind the sound bites we hear on television and read in our local newspapers? Having met him personally on different occasions over the years, I can firmly say that the Ozzie Guillen I have met and know is not the same one that is often characterized by baseball fans. For those fans that think that Ozzie is a loose cannon or angry person, think again. How do you know this person? What basis exists for such conclusions? These were the same questions that I wish I had originally asked myself the night of December 28th last year.
I try to always acquire as much baseball knowledge as I can and stay on top of all baseball news and facts. If you had quizzed me several months ago, I would have told you that Ozzie Guillen has three sons. I would have guessed that two, maybe all were drafted at some point by the Chicago White Sox. Call it one of my crazy baseball quirks, but I love following baseball drafts and prospects and learn the stories behind the players. How Tommy Lasorda had pulled in some favors to have the Dodgers draft Mike Piazza in the late rounds of his draft year. Gregg Zaun’s uncle is Rick Dempsey. Brady Anderson’s father is not Sparky. Mariano and Ruben Rivera are cousins. Jose Canseco has a twin brother who also played professional ball, Ozzie…who allegedly posed this past weekend as Jose in a celebrity boxing fight…well; let’s leave those details for another day.
From there the influx of next generation players is overwhelming- Patrick Leyland, Cale Iorg, Dee Gordon, Delino Deshields Jr., Nick Swisher, Shelley and Chris Duncan, just to name a few. The list literally goes on and on. But to name the Guillen boys, I truthfully would have said at the time Ozzie, Ozzie and Ozzie. Much in the way of George Foreman and his 10 children, with five boys all named George. Ozzie Jr., Oney and Ozney are not far off in essence. Each named as a direct or indirect variation of their father’s name. This is a great honor on one hand, but somewhat of a curse on the other. A curse in the sense that establishing a name for themselves would be that much more difficult. Exposure is one arena, solidification is quite another. The aforementioned night in December last year, I like much of the baseball world, got my first exposure to Oney through twitter. My perceptions from that day have long been altered. By sharing my conversations with Oney in this article, I am betting your opinion will change as well.
The story behind Oney’s tweets are well chronicled and do not require elaboration at this juncture. Needless to say, references were made by Oney with respect to ex-White Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks and the twitter world was abuzz. I will admit on record that the tweets were my first true exposure to Oney. But tweets on a singular evening do not define a man, a body of work in totality does. Over the course of the weeks after my friendship was struck with Oney, I prepared notes and went through an extensive interview with him. I have to admit, I could not put the papers down. Reading them again and again, I was mesmerized by his story. The tale of Oney Guillen begins as many of a baseball story does: getting drafted and playing major league ball.
Thank you for reading Part I of my feature article on Oney Guillen. In part II of this feature, I will present the first portion of my interview with Oney Guillen and share his thoughts, feelings and dreams in his own words. From his experiences growing up to his start in professional baseball as a player and working in the head office of the Chicago White Sox, to an in-depth look into his relationship with his dad and brothers. In part III you will hear from Oney as to his current roles in baseball as well as those of his brothers, and learn about his future goals and dreams. Stay tuned, the story of Oney Guillen in baseball is one not to be missed.
***A special thank you to Oney Guillen for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this interview series. Oney agreed to share private photos from his family album as part of this series. A thank you as well to Peter Stein, my editor in helping to prepare this piece.***
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