Sox skipper reflects on Mother's Day

Guillen pays homage to his wife

CHICAGO - It's hard to believe, but one person exists who wasn't immediately won over by Ozzie Guillen's charismatic and energetic demeanor.

That individual just happens to be Ibis Guillen, who celebrated her 22nd wedding anniversary with the White Sox manager during this past Spring Training. Guillen met his future wife while standing at a bus station in Caracas, Venezuela. He was near the front of a long line, going from the baseball field back to his home, and she was just coming into the station from the street. Guillen encouraged her to move to the front with him, and they talked for a while.

The rest, as they say, is blissful history. Well, almost complete blissful history.

"I didn't like him when he first met me," said Ibis Guillen, from the family's home in Florida. "I remember going with one of my friends and meeting him at a party, and after that he was telling everyone we were together.

"People were saying, 'That's Ozzie's girlfriend,' " she added with a laugh."Nobody said anything to me, but you know Ozzie."

Ibis followed her boyfriend and later husband from the start of his professional baseball career as part of the San Diego organization to his days as a star with the Chicago White Sox in their home away from home and up through his retirement from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000.

Now, she is a manager's wife, as Guillen has taken the White Sox to Major League Baseball's best record through the first week of May in just his second year at the helm.

Leading a group of talented players to first place in the American League Central Division, using a system that some media outlets refer to as "Ozzie ball," has been a tremendously impressive accomplishment. Guillen believes that his managerial duties pale in comparison to what his wife deals with on a daily basis and the work put in by the duo to form a successful marital union.

"A lot of people say, 'You are married to a baseball player. You are married to a rich man, a famous man,' " Guillen said about his wife. "But you have to be a mom, dad, friend and a teacher and do it all for your kids.

"If something happens to your kids, you are going to blame it on mom because I'm not there. Every time I talk to a ballplayer about getting married, I say, 'Get married to a woman. Don't get married to a trophy case.'

"A lot of people will make a mistake and marry just a beautiful woman," Guillen added. "All of a sudden, you wonder: Can she raise my kids? Can she go to school and talk about my kids? Can she control my kids when I'm not there?

"Marriage is one of the toughest things you can ever do in your life. I was blessed by god to marry who I married because she's everything I said."

While Guillen is in Chicago with the White Sox, or on the road for an extended period of time, Ibis is in Florida with the couple's youngest of three sons. Their oldest two sons go to college in the Chicago area and spend quite a bit of time around the team with their dad.

In fact, both Ozzie Jr. and Oney have done outstanding jobs as translators for the media with Hispanic players, who prefer to do interviews in Spanish. Ibis actually has a personal connection to baseball, aside from her immediate family, working for Pepsi in Venezuela and doing public relations for White Sox's right-hander Freddy Garcia, the Phillies' Bobby Abreu, Florida's Miguel Cabrera and her husband.

"They are like brothers to me," said Ibis of Garcia, Abreu and Ugueth Urbina, in particular, who are Guillen's closest friends in Venezuela. Garcia is also married to Ibis' niece.

"My wife loves my job, and she knows what knows kind of job I have," Guillen added.

The thorough knowledge of her husband's job also means Ibis must deal with the pointed commentary traveling throughout the media. She admitted to being disappointed with Magglio Ordonez's criticism of his former teammate and manager and the ensuing attack on her husband's direct and some times profane response to Ordonez. But more than anyone involved with the White Sox, anyone involved in baseball and certainly anyone that is a part of the media, Ibis knows what her husband is all about.

What you see is what you get with Ozzie, who is the same gregarious and honest person at home as he is at the ballpark. He's also a loving and caring husband and father, who calls home some times five-times per day when he's away from his wife and kids.

Ozzie also is more than a little entertaining and more than a little unconventional. When Ibis was 17, a 19-year-old Ozzie popped the question before leaving for a minor-league season in Beaumont in 1983. Ibis was skeptical, being that they were both so young. And what was Ozzie's response?

"He said that we were going to be fine, but not to worry because if it doesn't work out, we would get a divorce," Ibis said with a laugh. "When you get married at 19-years-old and 17-years-old, that job is not easy.

"But I married a good guy, a very good person. For me, the first thing in my life is my kids. Ozzie is a good father and I'm a good mother. That's our first job."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.