Sun, Jan 22, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Ozzie Guillen lives American dream in Chicago and gets citizenship

FIELD OF DREAMS The manager of the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox was from Venezuela, but he likes the States so much

AP , CHICAGO

Three months after accomplishing his goal, Ozzie Guillen realized a dream.

The manager of the World Series champion Chicago White Sox celebrated his 42nd birthday Friday by becoming a US citizen along with his wife Ibis and their son Oney.

"It's a great feeling," Guillen said. ``The funny thing about this is when I won the World Series, a lot of people felt that was my dream. That was my goal, to win the World Series. ... To do this is something real special.''

Ozzie Guillen was his usual self, smiling and waving as he entered the room where he, Ibis and Oney were sworn in as citizens after passing an exam. He was funny and serious, a study in contrasts.

Guillen said he was asked during the test to name the mayor of Chicago. That was easy.

"I said Ozzie Guillen," he said.

If he ran for office, Guillen probably wouldn't have to win over voters -- on the South Side, anyway. Not after leading the White Sox to the city's first World Series victory since 1917.

He called gaining US citizenship "a dream come true" and said, "A lot of people fight and die to be American citizens. A lot of Latin people are dying to be where I am right now."

He also acknowledged there were practical reasons for doing this.

Guillen started thinking about becoming a citizen in the past decade and became more serious about it in recent years, when the two oldest of this three children entered college. He also said acquiring a visa from his native Venezuela every year was a hassle.

A three-time All-Star shortstop who spent most of his 16-year playing career with the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen was born in Ocumare del Tuy, Venezuela. Ibis and Oney, who turns 20 next week, are natives of the South American country, as is 14-year-old son Ozney.

Oldest son Ozzie Jr., 22, was born in Las Vegas.

"We're going to do those papers soon," Ozzie Guillen said of his youngest son.

Guillen said gaining US citizenship "makes it easier for everyone."

Guillen said he doesn't anticipate much backlash from his native country, where he received a hero's welcome after winning the World Series.

"I did this for a reason -- a good reason," Guillen said. "It's nobody's business why I did it."

He expects most Venezuelans to ``see me the same way,'' although he half-jokingly acknowledged there might be one notable exception: President Hugo Chavez.

"He'll probably be mad at me," Guillen said. "I don't blame him, but it's a decision I've got to make for my family. It's a decision I've got to make for my own good. ... I couldn't care less what people think, and I'm going to do what's best for my family."

He said the US is "not an easy country," but provides the best opportunity "to be what you want to be."

"Do you know how many people die every week just to live in this country? Hundreds," Guillen said. "That's a dream. A lot of people want to be Americans. It's not an easy thing to do."

Guillen acknowledged he was nervous while taking the test. He joked that ``50 percent of the people don't know'' the answers to the questions on the exam and vowed to test his players during spring training. Oney Guillen, a student at North Park University in Chicago, said he and his parents studied for several hours Thursday and crammed before heading out Friday morning.

"They were harassing him about not knowing anything about the States, and now he knows a lot," said Oney Guillen, a student at North Park University in Chicago.

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