Blending the nostalgic embrace of a cherished World Series championship and an eventful offseason that has White Sox fans contemplating the possibility of another, this weekend’s SoxFest gathering at the Chicago Hilton figures to have a charged vibe not felt since, well, Ozzie Guillen last attended in 2011.
This one won’t, though, include the electric presence of Guillen, the former Sox All-Star, Gold Glove and Rookie of the Year shortstop who managed the 2005 team to the franchise’s first World Series title since 1917. Guillen, whose relationship with the Sox appears to be mending, has been watching son Ozney play postseason winter ball in Colombia, and he will be inducted into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in the Dominican Republic on Feb. 7, all of which makes the timing of attending SoxFest somewhat tricky.
The Sox invited Guillen to both SoxFest and to a bigger ’05 reunion event at U.S. Cellular Field that is planned for the weekend of July 17. Guillen said he’ll be there this summer, provided he can be released from his broadcast duties with ESPN Deportes and ESPN.
“SoxFest is for the fans,’’ Guillen said. “The fans deserve to have most of the [current] players there to spend time and have fun with. White Sox fans this year should be more excited than they have in the past because the product on the field will be a good one.’’
Ending a successful but stormy managerial career with the Sox that began in 2004, Guillen was cut loose by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in late September of the 2011 season to allow him to become the Miami Marlins manager. With three years left on his contract, Guillen was fired after one season and hasn’t been on the field since. He attended games at U.S. Cellular Field last season, and Reinsdorf attended Ozzie Jr.’s wedding, signs that the relationship is improving.
“Things aren’t great but it’s a lot better and if I go in July it’s because I think the players and the fans deserve everybody there,’’ Guillen said. “I don’t have anything against the White Sox, I never did. But if it happens, it happens, that’s part of the game. But to say I hate them? Have we had disagreements? Yes, but it’s not something I was bitter about.
“Are things getting better? Yes. Is it great? No. But I hope it gets great, yes. Time will see how it’s going to go.”
Guillen, who celebrated his 51st birthday Tuesday, signed a four-year, $10 million deal through 2015 in Miami and will be on the Marlins payroll for one more season. He wants to manage or coach again and expressed a desire to return to the Sox but there have been no offers from anyone.
“I’d rather be on the field than making money playing golf,’’ he said. “I love to be on the field, I love to compete, I love the competition, to be at the ballpark every day. The money I make the last couple of years, I don’t want to make that kind of money like that. It is what it is.
“I’m very happy what I do [broadcasting] but I would love to manage again. If an opportunity comes it would be awesome. That’s what I love to do.’’
From the 2005 team, Geoff Blum, Jose Contreras, Joe Crede, Jon Garland, Orlando Hernandez, Tadahito Iguchi, Bobby Jenks, Scott Podsednik and Aaron Rowand will be at SoxFest. Guillen stays in contact with players from that team and “it will be nice to see those guys [in July] again,’’ he said.
“I always love to see those guys. When you win everybody loves each other. I have such great memories and I managed a great group of guys, not just because they win the World Series but because they were real men on the field. They took everything like a man, they took the bull by the horns and made it easier for me.’’
Guillen also paid tribute to then-general manager Ken Williams, with whom he battled through numerous, well-chronicled off-field conflicts.
“You know what’s funny? I was upset when Kenny didn’t win Executive of the Year,’’ Guillen said, “because he did a good job to put a lot of guys together who we didn’t know what they would do or how good they would be in the big leagues, who worked their way. It was a big mistake by the media to not make him Executive of the Year.”
Guillen, who was named AL Manager of the Year in ’05, was honored to be named as a Latino Baseball Hall of Fame inductee as a player on Sept. 4 along with Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Carlos Delgado, Luis Gonzalez and Roberto Kelly.
“It’s a privilege to be in a place you only dream you’re going to be,’’ Guillen said.