Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I’ve been trying to find the time to sit down and write a bit for awhile now, so I apologize that some of this may seem dated.
Leave it to kids … as I put my 11-year-old daughter into bed last Thursday, we talked about the crazy end to baseball’s regular season, especially the fact that the Red Sox lost their game and then had to watch their postseason hopes evaporate just minutes later when Tampa beat the Yankees dramatically. With several nieces and nephews (her cousins) living in Connecticut and Massachusetts, the Red Sox loss was personal for my daughter.
“Well,” she offered. “At least you guys knew you weren’t getting in.”
Gee, thanks, babe.
Paul Konerko has this amazing ability to summarize just the right thought very succintly. His skill showed again last week as we parted ways with Ozzie Guillen and he quickly landed in Miami as the Marlins new manager.
“No matter who comes in, it’s going to be quieter,” Konerko was quoted as saying. “It’s been crazy. It’s never been boring.”
That certainly summarizes, in a nutshell, my last eight years with Ozzie.
I truly will miss Ozzie on a personal and professional level, while admittedly my professional job might be a little less … what’s the right word? Electric!
I will always admire Ozzie’s ability to absolutely fill any room he entered with excitement, energy and enthusiasm. He said hello to everyone and anyone. Attending a World Series or a winter meetings with Ozzie was to see him hugging, kissing and laughing with the ushers, security personnel, others in baseball, opposing players, you name it. It is a rare ability and not many people can claim it. Ozzie can in spades.
I always cite a couple of examples when people ask about what it is like to work with Ozzie. A couple of years ago, during spring training, I skipped a road game in Phoenix (vs. the Athletics) to take my family to Sedona. My cell rang on the morning drive up. It was Ozzie.
“We need to do something,” he said, aggitated/excitedly.
“What happened?” I answered (I asked that a lot over eight years).
“For Oakland. The shooting. We need to do something.”
It took me some time but I was finally able to figure out what Ozzie was talking about. He had seen that an Oakland police officer had been killed the night before during a routine traffic stop. And he knew we were playing the A’s that day.
If memory serves me, Ozzie wore an Oakland Police Department hat that day in Phoenix and commented to the media about the respect and role the police play in our society. It was classic Ozzie. He was aware. He cared. He wanted to act and he knew the positive impact he could have for others.
Another example came one year during SoxFest.
Ozzie was in the suite talking to an ESPN Magazine reporter about young Latin players and drug testing. We listened to his end of the conversation, admittedly a bit on edge. This topic could be trouble.
As he finished the conversation, Ozzie turned to me and said, “We need to do something.” Right then and there, we decided on a plan to have him tape a video message, in Spanish, about the importance of drug testing. Working with MLB we had copies of Ozzie’s message sent to each of the 30 organizations where it could be shown to their young Latin players who may have not been aware of the rules, penalties or the importance of drug testing.
People have talked about his appeal to various media, local, international and nationally. Certainly, our local media will miss his not-to-be-believed daily dugout sessions, made-to-order stories and quotes and of course, some of the drama. Internationally, no one was a bigger draw, and this too might change a little based on our next manager, although a team with a rich Latin history of Carrasquel, Aparicio, Guillen and Minoso will always garner attention. Nationally, I felt that Ozzie never was understood the way Chicago understood him. Nationally, he was always stereotyped as the loud mouth, with controversy constantly swirling around him. Some of that was deserved, but I always felt he was misperceived by being viewed only in this role. That was one of the reasons I liked the idea of him offering commentary on FOX during the World Series. I liked the idea of Ozzie having a national, even international, stage to show people his love and understanding for the game. Not enough people saw him in that way as opposed to the SportsCenter, what-did-he-say-this-time bit.
So while the public might think of Ozzie and all the glaring headlines or the controversies, I also chose to remember all of the many, many facets Ozzie delivered — some good, some arguably bad — often in a whirlwind (hurricane, he would say), often in a bi-lingual stream-of-consciousness and always with passion.
Some have thrown the word irrelevant at the White Sox now that Ozzie has departed. I certainly do not agree. Hundreds of thousands of White Sox fans certainly don’t agree. I will miss Ozzie, but it was time for everyone. I am looking forward to our choice as his replacement. It will turn the page to a brand new chapter of our book.