Starting Monday June 4, La Vida Baseball will launch a 13-episode series on the baseball life of outspoken Venezuelan legend Ozzie Guillén. (The total number of episodes coincides with the number he wore throughout his 16-season playing career.)
In telling the stories of Latinos in baseball, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to a variety of players, managers and even Hall of Famers. These interviews usually last no longer than 10-15 minutes.
Guillén, the first Latin American manager to win a World Series, granted La Vida Baseball more than two hours of his time. Through this interview, we decided to tell his story in short segments.
We think this is a good way to focus on milestones in his life: his Rookie of the Year award, the year his first son was born, his stops as a coach, winning the World Series as a manager and his thoughts on the current political climate in Venezuela.
Guillén was candid throughout the entire interview, just as he has been throughout his entire career. We didn’t give him any restrictions or barriers as to what he could say.
Some of his most memorable quotes of the series are in relation to his first year playing in the United States.
“My first year in the rookie league was very bad,” he said. “I thought I knew more about baseball than anybody on that team. The manager hated me and I hated the manager. I still remember his name, Jim Zerilla. But you know what, he made me better.”
Now, looking back, Ozzie jokes, “If I’m a coach and I have a kid like me, I would kill him.”
When Ozzie talks about winning the Rookie of the Year, he talks about it unselfishly. He was proud to have won the distinguished honor, not for personal glory, but because it brought a sense of pride and happiness back to his home country of Venezuela.
“I told God, ‘Thank you, because I was able to give my country a little bit of happiness,’” he says. “Everywhere I went, I was Rookie of the Year and it brought Luis Aparicio back on the map.”
Fast forward to being a manager and winning the World Series. A flood of various emotions took over at that last out. “The first thing I did was put my head down and I looked at my kids and I kissed them. To me that was more important than anything else.”
Family, baseball and Venezuela are paramount to Ozzie.
Through this series we hope to share his stories, elevate his voice and give him the opportunity to set the record straight on his comments on former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.