Guillen sends important message

Guillen sends important message

CHICAGO -- The telephone had barely returned to its cradle, following one of the many Spring Training interviews done by Ozzie Guillen, when the White Sox manager decided a change had to be made.

This particular story for which Guillen was being asked questions focused on steroids testing and the large number of young Latin American players who tested positive. After giving his take on the topic, Guillen quickly chose a proactive route to ensure this tale would not have to be focused upon again.

"Ozzie hung up the phone with him and said, 'I want to do something about this,'" said White Sox vice president of communications Scott Reifert, who was present with Guillen at the time of the phone interview. Reifert then helped put together Guillen's involvement in an anti-doping video in conjunction with Major League Baseball that will be shown to all players participating in the Venezuelan and Dominican Summer Leagues, and to other Spanish-speaking players throughout baseball.

"We started talking and through that came the idea for this video," Reifert added. "I called Major League Baseball and said that Ozzie wants to do this and I don't know if there's a way to get that distributed. They mentioned how they send out guys to explain rules [to the Minor Leaguers], and they would love to have a video to play and start out the presentation."

And thus, the former soap opera actor in Venezuela began his latest starring role shortly thereafter. This video had nothing to do with fame and fortune for Guillen.

It was an act of passion and concern, much like Guillen feels for his wife and three sons or his baseball family on the South Side of Chicago. According to Major League Baseball, hard copies of the drug policy will be distributed to each player in both English and Spanish, along with literature ranging from what is banned to elaborations on health-related issues.

Guillen's words start each session, a video with impact coming from the only native Venezuelan to lead his team to a World Series title as a manager.

"Ozzie Guillen came to Major League Baseball and was very passionate about joining our efforts to reach out to every level of our game in the fight against illegal substances in our sport," said Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig in a statement. "Ozzie has had tremendous success as both a player and manager for decades, and the participation of someone of his stature will help us continue to be vigilant in educating all players about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs."

"Hopefully, it will mean something to these kids, with Ozzie talking to them, as opposed to just having an American doctor speaking on behalf of Major League Baseball," Reifert added.

Even before Guillen did this particular Spring Training interview, the number of Latino players who had tested positive for a banned substance was on his mind. According to a Newsweek article from one year ago, eight of the 12 Major and Minor League ballplayers who tested positive at the time in 2006 came from Venezuela and the Dominican. And according to an Associated Press review in 2005, more than half the players suspended for positive tests were born in Latin America.

"Major League Baseball puts the information out there, but the kids don't read that or understand what's going on. They don't know what's good or what's bad. Ninety-nine percent of the time, those kids don't know what they take or what you can take."
-- Ozzie Guillen

Immense pressure to succeed and survive, coupled with bad advice coming from outside sources, led Guillen to believe better information had to be provided. He spoke directly with all of the White Sox Minor Leaguers this past spring in Tucson, Ariz., explaining his thoughts in Spanish to the players from Latin America.

"Major League Baseball puts the information out there, but the kids don't read that or understand what's going on," explained Guillen, referring to Latin American Minor Leaguers. "They don't know what's good or what's bad. Ninety-nine percent of the time, those kids don't know what they take or what you can take.

"That was bugging me. I was blaming people around them -- scouts or agents -- giving them something and saying they are going to be stronger, better and make a lot of money. I know for a fact that happens. That's why I called Major League Baseball and said I wanted to do this for the kids."

During Spring Training, Guillen's words of advice were taped and the video was edited by White Sox individuals, who put together pieces for the scoreboard at U.S. Cellular Field. It was sent to Major League Baseball for distribution.

"We had Ozzie speaking from the heart, in Spanish, and warning the kids that there is no excuse for not knowing," Reifert said. "He told them that they need to understand and fight off the outside pressures. That was part of it, and then he explained how this is the risk if you do this."

"Don't do anything you will regret later," added Guillen of his message to the young Latin American players. "You are good because you have talent. It might help you, but you are going to lose your career. You are going to lose your ability. You might die."

Although Guillen doesn't know any of these kids personally, he smiles with great pride over helping set straight individuals who watch the video. It's the humane side of Guillen on display every day, frequently overshadowed by his entertaining quotes and oftentimes colorful rhetoric.

"Really, it's not fair for the kids to suffer because of ignorance and not getting good information," Guillen said. "That's why I was proud to do it.

"If you come from our country and your family is begging for help and someone says, 'You take this and you'll become a superstar,' obviously you are going to do it. But I don't want to take the problem we have here and move it to our countries and say we are the ones corrupting baseball. It's a nice piece we did for them."

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