Outside of the love they gave newly elected Hall of Famer Harold Baines, the SoxFest crowd in attendance for Friday night’s opening ceremonies saved their biggest cheers for Ozzie Guillen.
It’s been quite a while since Guillen was a part of this event, and for many fans, Guillen’s inclusion ranked somewhere below the desire for a surprise Manny Machado announcement and meeting Eloy Jimenez as a highlight of this year’s SoxFest.
Count Guillen as one of the most excited about his return.
“I’m very excited. I’m very pleased. I’m very humbled because I’m back with my family, back with the people I grew up, back with the people I know for so many years,” he said after the opening ceremonies Friday night. “And especially today, when you know the ceremony is about Harold Baines. … That’s something to be part of that, it means a lot to me and my family.
“I’m glad I’m part of this, and I feel I’m back home. I feel happy. It’s something we were looking for for a long time.”
Of course, the White Sox and Guillen had a much discussed breakup when Guillen’s managerial tenure came to an end in the final days of the 2011 season. But Guillen’s been back for events at Guaranteed Rate Field in recent seasons, he talks often about the close relationship he has with team executive vice president Kenny Williams, and he still holds a prominent place in the hearts and minds of White Sox fans as the manager of the 2005 World Series champions. That much was evidenced by the reception he received Friday.
The fact that he’s the only person to manage the White Sox to a world championship in the last 100 years has plenty of South Side baseball fans hoping he returns to the managerial chair. General manager Rick Hahn agrees that Guillen should be a manager, but for those trying to read into things, know that Hahn said the White Sox job is filled.
“He's here tonight, which is great. From my standpoint, Ozzie Guillen belongs managing at the big league level,” Hahn said. “Obviously we're extremely pleased — not just because he's in the room and about to step on the podium here — but we're extremely pleased with where we are in terms of that position and would certainly like to see Ozzie get the opportunity somewhere in baseball to fulfill what I think is his best role.”
Guillen said he’d be a big league manager again if the opportunity came about, though the trend in the game right now is to hire young, first-time skippers who don’t share Guillen’s tendency to speak his mind.
But he also expressed a desire to return to the White Sox organization in some capacity, and with the way the front office has used one of Guillen’s old players, Hall of Famer Jim Thome, perhaps there could be something he could contribute.
“I want to (be a part of the White Sox),” Guillen said. “I have a job right now. But I want to go there, bring my granddaughter to the game. I raised my kids to be a White Sox fan, now raising my granddaughter to be a White Sox fan. That’s something I’m looking for. It would be nice for our family to be happy and be part of.
“I can help. I know about baseball a little bit. I can help the organization in different ways. We have a manager, and I respect him. I’m not coming here to look for a managerial job. That’s the last thing I think about. I just want to help the organization the way I can.”