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Ozney Guillen

The greatest inheritance, Ozney Guillen graduates from college

Ozzie Guillen's youngest son Ozney moves parents to tears at college graduation

Through tears of joy, Ibis Guillen cheered as Ozney Guillen walked across the stage to receive his degree from St. Thomas University last week. In between loud screams of “Bravo,” she whispered in Spanish declaring love for her youngest son.

Memories of the previous three decades flashed through her mind. She thought back to Ozney’s first day of elementary school and then middle school and high school. Ibis remembered helping Ozney with homework and taking him to school. 

“It was like a movie playing in my head,” she said. Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen also cheered as tears of joy rolled down his cheek. They could read the message Ozney Guillen, 29, wrote in gold on the top his black graduation cap.

“One more championship for the Guillens … Adela, Ozzie #Love,” read the black graduation cap.

The first Latino manager to win a World Series is adamant that this “championship” was more significant than any of his resume. It’s more valuable than the rings he won with the Florida Marlins as a coach or with the White Sox as a manager.

Ozney Guillen receives “greatest inheritance”

“I’m more proud of that than anything,” said Ozzie Guillen, the former White Sox and Marlins manager, says of his kids’ college degrees. “The goals of the parents were accomplished and the goals of the child were accomplished. The greatest inheritance you can give a child is an education, and we’ve always wanted to help our children in the best way.

“I never cried for winning anything. But I did cry when I saw him walk at his graduation. That tells you how important that is for us as a family.”

Ibis was only 17 years old when she married 19-year-old Ozzie in their native Venezuela 38 years ago. She followed her husband to the East Texas town of Beaumont that year so he could play Class AA. They spent the next season in Las Vegas, where their oldest son Oswaldo Jr. was born.

Shortly after they celebrated their second anniversary, Ozzie made his big league debut with the White Sox. He won the 1985 American League Rookie of the Year Award to set the tone for one of the best careers ever by a Venezuelan.

Ozney Guillen
Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and his wife Ibis pose with their three sons and two grandchildren. Photo courtesy of Ozzie Guillen Jr.

Ibis and Ozzie vowed to make education a priority for their children. They aspired to give them the college degrees they never pursued. Ibis finished high school in Venezuela. Ozzie stopped his formal education before graduating high school to pursue a career that made him one of the greatest shortstops in Venezuelan history.

Big Goal

Ozney played independent league baseball and winter league ball in Venezuela until 2019. Through that whole time his brothers and parents urged him to finish his degree. 

“It was a big goal, especially just for my parents,” Ozney said. “I know my mom and dad really pushed us to get our degrees. They never got a chance to get an education.”

It’s a testament to Ozney’s baseball knowledge, personality and savvy that he was hired to manage the Astros’ Class A short-season Tri-City Valleycats in 2019. He was only 27 and without a degree working for an organization renowned for being at the forefront of using analytics.

Ozney Guillen’s finals at Finals

Ozney followed the 2019 season in Tri-City with a stint managing winter ball in Colombia while taking St. Thomas classes online. He returned to Colombia this past winter as president of baseball ops for the Vaqueros de Monteria.

Ozney had two finals, so to speak, in each of the last two winters with the Vaqueros de Monteria.

He took a final online for a class on the same day of Game 5 of the Colombian Winter League playoffs in each of the last two winters. Ozney was busy cramming for his tests hours before each of those Game 5 of the Colombian Winter League playoffs.

Ozney was the last of the Guillen children left to secure a degree. He enrolled at Miami Dade College in 2010 and played on the baseball team. In 2013 he transferred to  St. Thomas University in Miami. He played baseball there and then began his playing career in the independent Frontier League in 2014.

“I think my teachers were so lenient,” he said. “I had to take a final in winter ball. I had to study when I could. Thank God it worked. The people of St. Thomas worked with me. It was different to have to prepare for a final and a game on the same day.”

Different education now

Ozney was a part-time assistant baseball coach this season at St. Thomas while he finished his degree in sports administration. He also works as a hitting instructor in Miami at Core Baseball Facility with former big leaguers Freddy Garcia, Gregor Blanco, Eduardo Villacis and Francisco Cervelli.

He has never stopped working while pursuing his degree.

“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “I had to finish a final in back to back years during the finals of the playoffs, but I know it’s going to pay off in the end. Everybody knows when you can put a smile on your mom’s face it’s always worth it.”

Ozzie Guillen was one of the most successful Latino managers in history despite not having a degree. He was charismatic and outspoken with a 16-year MLB career on his resume.

Ozzie learned English during his career and became a popular and respected coach immediately after he retired. He spent two seasons with the Montreal Expos as a coach. Then he joined the Marlins’ staff in 2003.

Shortly after the Marlins won the 2003 World Series, the White Sox hired Guillen to manage his former team. He was a popular choice and helped bring a World Series title to the South Side of Chicago in 2005.

Ozney was a 14-year-old batboy when his father became the first Latino manager to win a World Series title. It took 13 years before Alex Cora of the Red Sox became the second Latino manager to win a World Series title in 2018. Davy Martinez became the third a year later with the Nationals.

Ozney, however, doesn’t aspire to be the fourth Latino manager to win a World Series. He is more interested in becoming the second GM born in Latin America to win a World Series. 

His job at Core Baseball Academy feels as though he’s back at school again. Ozney is learning from five big leaguers daily in a setting he considers similar to big league spring training. He’s able to try different drills while helping young players chase their high school, college and even big league dreams.

Front office dreams for Guillen

Ozney also earned certificates in mental health psychology and biomechanics through programs affiliated with St. Thomas.

“I want to be a big league GM,” Ozney said. “Managing has changed a little bit nowadays. Being a GM is one of the biggest dreams, and you need a degree. I didn’t want anybody to hold it over my head. 

“I know now being a baseball guy doesn’t get you as far as it used to. Before if you played 10 years and wanted to be a coach it was possible. I’m trying to build this database of knowledge for myself to prepare.”

Ozzie and Ibis have done their part. They’ve given Ozney the inheritance they aspired to give their children when they first moved to America as teenagers. 

Ibis and Ozzie’s three boys all have their degrees to go along with the World Series rings they received as batboys for the 2005 White Sox.

Ozzie and his boys were all together in the Minute Maid Park visitors’ dugout when the White Sox clinched the World Series sweep over the Astros in 2005. Ibis was in the family section. Ibis, Ozzie and their two older boys were in the crowd last week when Ozney walked across the stage to pick up degree.

“For Ozzie, it was just as big as winning if not bigger,” Ozzie Jr. said of his dad. “Education is all he ever wanted to give us.”

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