Younger Guillen ready for first manager job
TROY — Ozney Guillen has been in dugouts for most of his life. Now, he gets one of his own.
The new manager of the Tri-City ValleyCats is just 27 years old, but he knows baseball and what it takes to run a baseball team better than most his age. His father, Ozzie, managed in the big leagues for nine years with the Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins. Ozney was at Minute Maid Park in Houston with his father when they celebrated the White Sox snapping an 88-year World Series drought in 2005. He was 13 years old at the time and the bat boy for the team.
Through those teams and the players he saw on an every day basis, he learned how big league managers and players carry themselves.
“Just seeing guys, the way they go about their business. Paul Konerko was one of the most professional guys I’ve ever met, that’s kind of a guy that I’ve looked up to. Other guys that you’ve seen throughout your life, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, Ken Griffey (Jr.), you just see how they went about their business and I think that’s going to help me at this level,” Guillen said Tuesday.
He knew that he wanted to be a manager from a young age, as well. He says that he first realized that in 2003, when his father was with the Marlins as the third-base coach and he would sit in the dugout with then-manager Jack McKeon during games. Those 2003 Marlins went on to win the World Series, and his father was hired by the White Sox in the subsequent offseason.
“I just thought (managing) was cool. Just to be able to hang out with those guys and teach them and just be a person they can look up to, and just show them how it’s going to be done,” Guillen said.
He said of his father’s reaction of hearing the news that Ozney had been hired to manage in the Astros’ farm system, well-known in baseball circles for it’s technological and analytics-driven approach, “He was happy. He knew I’ve wanted to be a manager for a long time. I always told him it was a dream of mine to be with the Astros, because it’s a different side of baseball and I really wanted to be a part of it.”
Ozzie Guillen will be at the team’s home opener at Joe Bruno Stadium on Sunday, which also happens to be Father’s Day.
Guillen replaces Jason Bell, who managed the ValleyCats for a lone season last summer and helped lead Tri-City to its third New York-Penn League title in franchise history. Bell is now a fundamentals coordinator and works with the Astros’ entire system. The pair got to work together in spring training this year.
“He’s taken me under his wing and taught me everything,” Guillen said of Bell. “He loved it here, they have a winning tradition from what I’ve seen, the players have all been really good, I’ve seen all the guys that have come through here, and pretty much just carry the match. Keep winning, and even better than that is develop our players and get them to the next level.”
Unlike Bell, who had coached in affiliated ball and college before becoming a manager, Guillen has never had an official coaching job before. He is coming off a five-year professional playing career that ended last year, having never played in the minor leagues but played with a host of independent and Venezuelan Winter League teams. He said that since his playing career just ended and his young age will help him relate to his players, many of them just starting their professional careers.
“I know how it is to be hurt, I know guys can be scared to say something, talk to the managers or not talk to the managers. Especially being so young, 18 or 20 years old it’s like talking to a parent, you think you’re going to get in trouble. I’m not going to give them that feel,” Guillen said.
He will make his debut on Friday as the ValleyCats open up the season against the Vermont Lake Monsters. The home opener is on Sunday against the Staten Island Yankees.
Guillen said, “Just learning. Day-to-day, going over everything more than once, everything I’ve learned from a young age and everything they’ve taught me here, trying to put it all together.”