Carlos Guillen returns to Comerica Park
The Tigers held their annual Fiesta Tigres luncheon on Friday, and they used the occasion to celebrate the career of Carlos Guillen. Before they introduced him as the guest of honor, they ran a video montage of highlights from his eight seasons as a Tiger.
Yes, his home run off Jered Weaver last year was one of the highlights. It drew an applause.
It was the next-to-last of his 124 Major League home runs, and it came during a time when his career was clearly on its last legs. Yet it might go down as one of his most popular moments as a Tiger, and he’s fine with it.
“Oh, everybody [remembers it],” Guillen said. “In Venezuela, it’s the same. I think everybody nationally was watching it. I had fun when I hit that home run. I respect Jered Weaver. To me, he’s one of the best pitchers in the big leagues right now. He was one of the best back then. It’s part of the game. …
“You know, the fans, they come to watch you play baseball and have fun. Why not have fun when you play? It’s part of the game. Everybody talks about what I did that day? Nobody says what [Weaver] did to Magglio when he hit a home run. They show on ESPN only Carlos Guillen, but they don’t show he was yelling at Magglio. But I don’t care. It’s fine. I worry when they’re not talking about you.
“It’s part of the game. The game was on the line. He’s a good pitcher. Verlander was pitching a good game. He was pitching a good game.”
Guillen did a lot of reflecting on his career, including on his time when he joined the Tigers. He admitted, maybe for the first time, that he initially wasn’t happy when he was traded to the Tigers after the 2003 season. He saw a team coming off 119 losses and he questioned what direction it was going in. The fact that he had nearly been traded to a Cleveland team with a much more recent history of winning — the Indians and Mariners had a deal, only to see it nullified when Omar Vizquel failed his physical — didn’t help.
“The first moment when they traded me, I didn’t want to come here,” Guillen said Friday. “The scout who signed me to play professional baseball, [Andres Reiner], he called me and said, ‘You want to play for Dave Dombrowski and Alan Trammell. They’re good. I bet you they’re going to do their best to turn around the team.’ It made me feel different. …
“I came here, not to teach everybody because they knew how to play baseball, but trying to put everybody on the same page, to believe in ourselves. That’s what I learned when I played in Seattle, because I was the younger guy and Ken Griffey Jr., Alex [Rodriguez] and Edgar [Martinez] were my teachers. I tried to do the things that they did for me.”
You hear a lot of talk from Guillen about passing along what he learned. It’s one of the ideas behind his baseball academy in Venezuela, now at about three dozen kids. It’s one reason he doesn’t rule out getting involved with a Major League club later in life after his kids are older, or maybe getting involved with the Venzuelan team for the World Baseball Classic next spring (he said he has been approached about that).