04/18/12 12:00 AM ET
Not much fanfare, outcry over Ozzie's return
Fans seem forgiving; protesters not an issue at Marlins Park
By David Villavicencio / Special to MLB.com
Guillen rejoined the Marlins after the manager served a five-game suspension for comments he made about Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
"I was very excited," Guillen said. "I love how the team played. I love being around the guys and spend three hours of my life where I want to be. That's the place I want to be. Every time I step into the dugout or put a baseball uniform on, that's Ozzie Guillen. That's what I want."
Guillen returned to manage his team exactly one week after he held a news conference to apologize for his comments about Castro.
Following that news conference on April 10, about 200 protestors in Miami voiced their displeasure with Guillen's five-game suspension, shouting for the 48-year-old to be fired for his comments.
But the hostility seems to have faded away as Guillen's return came without any boos or major protests. There was one person seen outside Marlins Park with a sign that read "No Apology," while 24,544 fans cheered on the Marlins as they picked up a 5-2 victory over the Cubs.
"He's our manager and he's going to be here for four more years," said Hanley Ramirez about 30 minutes after he hit the game-winning three-run homer in the eighth. "We've got to leave that behind us and move on. We've got a long season, and I think this city is ready for us. I think we're building a winning team now."
Guillen admitted after the game that he was worried with how things would go in his first game back, but he was happy with how things turned out.
"Personally, very pleased and very happy about it," Guillen said. "From my house to here, it's only 12 minutes, but it seemed like two hours, with all the thinking and how I'd handle this. I told myself one thing, 'Just be honest.'"
Guillen said that he lost sleep over the situation and how it affected Miami's heavily Cuban population. Marlins left-hander Mark Buehrle knows Guillen as well as anyone after playing for him for eight years with the White Sox. Buehrle believes Guillen was being sincere when he apologized, and he hopes the public will accept his manager's apology.
"You definitely can tell that it affected him," Buehrle said. "Obviously, he's said a lot of stuff and never had to apologize and never had to go into this much detail explaining himself. Anytime you see him doing that, he knows he messed up."
Some Marlins fans like Danny Pedrayes, 25, have accepted Guillen's apology, but would like to see him focus on his job while staying away from controversial topics.
"I accepted his apology and I think he's a great manager," Pedrayes said. "I just think he needs to separate politics from the game of baseball."
Rene Delombard, 25, believes Guillen handled himself as best as he could, but he is not necessarily forgiving Guillen completely just yet.
"I don't agree with what he said because of my family heritage and being Cuban," Delombard said. "But I feel like we should root for the name of the front of the jerseys and not the name on the back."
Though some Marlins fans seemed fairly accepting of Guillen in his return, others are not ready to completely forgive just yet.
"I think Ozzie's return is great for baseball, but bad for the Cuban community," said Nelson Lopez, 40, from Kendall, Fla.
Guillen is focused on managing his team, but he also wants to connect with the Cuban community and show that he is truly sorry for his comments.
"Do I feel bad about what happened? 100 percent, I do," Guillen said. "What happened has happened. Now it's time for me to start making amends for the terrible mistake that I made."
The Marlins manager plans to use more than words to show the Miami community that he is truly sorry. Guillen met with team president David Samson prior to Tuesday's game to discuss donating his salary from the five games he missed to Cuban organizations in the community.
"He was very, very focused on not just doing something today, but going forward," Samson said. "What he has learned and we've all learned is it's not necessarily what you say you're going to do, but what you actually do.
"I think what he chose to do with his salary for these past five games will have an immediate and big impact on this community going forward. There is a lot of need, and through our foundation and his foundation, those needs will be met."
Guillen mentioned in his news conference that he will never speak about politics again. But the outspoken manager admitted on Tuesday that he will probably still be voicing his opinion on a lot of different things just as he has in the past.
"I don't think I'm going to change," Guillen said. "But obviously, talking about some issues that is not my business, I'm going to learn from that. I learned a tough lesson, very tough. Not just me, but my family."
Guillen came into Tuesday expecting to "face it like a man." Now that he is past his first game back from suspension, he is excited to focus on baseball only going forward.
"Thank God this day is over," Guillen said. "Next time, every time we come here, we're going to talk about Marlins baseball and baseball in general."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.