Like father, like sons in lively Guillen family
Lively debates, accomplishments reign for skipper's family
CHICAGO -- The following pitch for a reality television series would interest even the most skeptical of network executives.
Picture the manager of a Major League Baseball team, the colorful leader of the franchise's lone World Series champion in the past nine decades, sitting at home having dinner. Dining with him are his three sons: one who is a broadcaster for his father's team and has his sights set on working as an agent or general manager, a second works in the scouting department and also aspires to become a general manager and the third hopes to someday reach the big leagues as a player, possibly suiting up for his father.
And by the way, the three sons are as outspoken, direct and engaging as their more notorious father. Cue the lively conversation, thankfully at a far higher level of intelligence than some offerings passing for present ratings bonanzas. Think "Keeping Up with The Kardashians" without the scripted emotions.
Add in the mother/wife of the family, too young and lovely to be known as a matriarch, but is the glue of this gregarious group, and to quote from one of the greatest comedies in television history, it's gold.
When this family's name happens to be Guillen, the pitch becomes even more attractive.
"A lot of people would want to see it, and it would be a lot of fun," said Oney Guillen, the middle son of the three, with a laugh during a recent interview with MLB.com. "They would have to do a lot of editing."
"I would love have to a radio show with myself, Oney and my dad and let the people out there feel the arguments," said Ozzie Jr., the oldest of the three Guillen kids. "Believe it or not, we call our dad out on a lot of things: baseball, politics, life lessons. It makes for great television or radio."
To date, Ozzie and his wife, Ibis, have not given the green light to any sort of show regarding the family. Even for a group basically living its life in the public eye, Guillen tries to keep the day-to-day interaction separate from on-the-job responsibilities.
But there's no denying the Guillens have become the first family of Chicago sports.
He's in charge
Ozzie Guillen begins his seventh season at the helm of the White Sox in February.
He has four finishes above .500 to his managerial credit, two American League Central titles and the most memorable campaign in franchise history during Chicago's World Series run of 2005. As much as Guillen knows about the game, and he has been a true student of baseball since he was a skinny rookie shortstop sensation with the White Sox in 1985, he has found greater fame and fortune through his often politically incorrect candor.
More accurately, Guillen has produced enough wild sound bites to fill up four or five greatest hits CDs. Those around him on a daily basis almost expect the occasional profane diatribe coming from the man in charge.
"There's an old saying they say about people that, 'When they made him, they threw away the mold,' " said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf of his manager and friend. "In Ozzie's case, there was no mold."
"My dad has a sense of humor that's unique," Ozzie Jr. said. "If you get him, you get him. If you don't ... he's a great guy and loves the game of baseball. I would never trade my dad. I told him the day you change who you are in your job, you should quit, because that means you are going to change how you are in life and you should never do that."
Along with helping to re-build a successful organization on the South Side of Chicago, Guillen deserves credit for the wonderful family unit he has helped nurture. His sons are respectful of the people around them, often helping out in the clubhouse with work such as translating for Spanish-speaking players who prefer to do interviews in their more familiar language. They also work with their father's charitable endeavors in the United States and through the Ozzie Guillen Foundation in Venezuela.
In a day and age when young "celebrities" often fall victim to the trappings of fame, the Guillens have avoided such pitfalls -- even as unofficial princes of the city, if you will. It's not to say the three haven't had their share of fun.
"We might be a little more private or sneaky," said Ozzie Jr. with a laugh. "Being in the spotlight is a double-edged sword, but I think Chicago is a city that takes care of its own. People come up to us and they expect something completely different and when they meet us, they are like, 'You guys are really down-to-earth.'
"You can see me in Chicago just like a regular 25-year-old around the city. I don't consider myself special or more important than anyone. But I admit Chicago has been fun for me."
For this even-keel, no-nonsense approach shown by his children, Guillen credits his wife for running the show at home.
"She raised them right and taught them right," Guillen said. "Most of the time, your wife is there to support you, but I was there to support her 100 percent. My kids know how to treat people.
"One thing I admire about my kids: They can be here talking to [White Sox chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf, and two seconds later, they go to Venezuela and talk to the poorest people you can ever see. People with no clothes on, who don't have a place to live.
"They know so much about life," Guillen said. "Everything they do right now, they do with love and respect."
When the first pitch of the 2010 season is thrown, Ozzie Jr. will enter his fifth year with Omar Ramos as the White Sox Spanish-language broadcast team for La Tremenda, Univision Radio on 1200 AM. Ozzie Jr. also has had a successful talk show on WSCR 670 AM, the flagship Sox radio station, in both Spanish and English.
This particular job description recently has grown in scope. Along with the 40-or-so baseball games, Ozzie Jr. and Ramos have started Spanish-language broadcasts of selected Chicago Bulls' NBA contests this season.
"It's a little unique. It's a little different. It's a little bit more fast-paced and more challenging than baseball," said Ozzie Jr. of the NBA broadcasts, adding how he has to do more homework on the NBA team coming into Chicago, not to mention keeping updated with what's going on with the players on the Bulls. "But it has been fun. It's great that I get to cover a team I've grown up following."
Oney, 23, played the 2007 and '08 seasons in the White Sox Minor League system but then hung up the cleats and became part of the organization's talent evaluation department. Meanwhile, Ozney, who recently turned 18, is a standout player at Monsignor Pace High School in Florida.
Ozney committed to play collegiately at South Florida. That plan could change if the youngest Guillen becomes a high-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, a pick that if it doesn't come this year, still someday could lead to the Guillen family all being together under the same employment in a perfect baseball world.
"That's Ozney's dreams. That's Ozney's goal, and I hope his goal comes true," Guillen said. "One day, I hope Ozzie [Jr.] is calling the first base hit Ozney hit. No matter how far they go in life, they know they are going to have their mom and dad's support and that's all that matters.
"I told my kids, 'You are going to make me and your mother happy and proud whatever you do as long as you do it right.' You don't have to be a baseball player. Not everyone is born to be in the big leagues."
About that reality show ...
Having a Major Leaguer as a son, or even as an aspiring Minor Leaguer, adds to the cachet of the aforementioned proposed show. Just think of the interesting candor after Ozzie, the father and manager, watches Ozney deliver a game-winning hit for the White Sox.
"Yeah, having Ozney on the same team probably would be great, but it would be really tough for Ozzie," Reinsdorf said. "How do you send up a pinch-hitter for your kid?"
"Dad would appreciate it," said Oney, who played in a few Cactus League games for his dad during Spring Training. "He got to see me play in the Minors, and I played three or four times for him and that was cool. Now, I could say I did what I wanted to do. Ozney could take it to another level. It would be a neat experience for all of us."
Of course, the perfect opening shot for this show already is in place.
After Juan Uribe threw out pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro for the final out in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series sweep, the broadcast quickly cut to the White Sox visitors' dugout in Houston. That next memorable moment featured Ozzie Guillen, the conquering manager, being hugged by his three sons in a moving family celebration.
Just a slightly more sedate focus from the usual Guillen family energy.
"If you ever come into the Guillen household as a girlfriend or future wife, you are going to come in for a unique experience," Ozzie Jr. said. "We are very tight with each other. But if we had a reality television show, I don't know if cameras could be around. There's nothing that is off the table with us at all. We talk about everything."
"All three of them are different, and fortunately none of them are like Ozzie," said Reinsdorf with a wry smile of the Guillens. "It's a great family. It's great to see that Ozzie can work and have his kids around him."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.