In Miami, Ozzie wont stop being Ozzie

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In Miami, Ozzie wont stop being Ozzie

MIAMI Marlins Park is sensory overload. It looks like they dropped a spaceship into the middle of Little Havana.

There are half-naked women dancing in the Clevelander bar beyond the left-field wall. The music is loud rap and salsa and so are the colors - lime green, bright orange, deep blue.

When Hanley Ramirez steps to the plate, he can see his image lit up in a fluorescent Andy Warhol portrait on the center-field scoreboard. Ozzie Guillen is supposed to be the magnet to help draw them to the site of the old Orange Bowl.

Even if the Marlins never envisioned their manager making pro-Fidel Castro comments to TIME magazine, this is what they wanted, flashbulbs popping and the microphones hanging on every word.

Guillen returned from his five-game suspension on Tuesday and spoke to the media for almost 17 minutes, before opening it up to questions from the Spanish-language outlets. He will apologize and reach out to this citys Cuban community, but he cant alter his DNA.

I dont think Im going to change, Guillen said. Just be careful who you talk to. Thats all it is. I made a mistake. I paid for it. And Im here to make it better and win some ballgames.

Guillen believes winning cures everything. The sculpture in center field lit up and sprayed water in the eighth inning after Ramirez drilled a 95 mph fastball off Cubs reliever Rafael Dolis for a three-run homer, snapping a tie game and lifting the Marlins to a 5-2 victory. The manager had no doubts hed be back in that dugout.

I never worried about being fired from my job, Guillen said. Thats not up to me. That was up to the people running this ballclub. They were really, really behind me 100 percent.

Obviously, theyre not too happy. They dont agree with what I did, but they supported me.

The Marlins are standing behind Guillen. Team president David Samson put it like this: I said to Ozzie in a very personal moment: We want you to not change the way you manage or who you are. We want you to think about anything other than baseball as probably not funny.

Guillen and the Marlins front office are looking into community outreach opportunities, and plan to make significant contributions through their charitable foundations.

But Guillen knows when you hurt somebodys feelings, you dont resolve it with money. And the manager is braced for the backlash: I dont expect everybody to be 100 percent onboard with me.

The Marlins drew only 24,544 fans on Tuesday night, though that could say more about this citys indifference to their baseball team than Guillens politics.

Are they going to forgive me? Guillen said. I expect that. I hope that. I want that. Are they going to do it? Time will tell.

This is life inside the echo chamber, where a modern manager might sit through close to 400 media sessions a year, and have anything he says blasted out on Twitter and across cyberspace.

I dont care where you are, if you dont say the right things, (its) going to be magnified, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. Theres too much media and some people take one thing the wrong way and thats all it takes. It snowballs throughout the whole country.

So its just something you got to be careful of and try to stick to what we know in baseball and thats it.

The Marlins are going to keep Guillen up on that tightrope.

If youre winning and I do what I think I should do in this community it will be better, Guillen said. I want the community to know Im for real. Im not lying to them, and I respect them. I hurt them, yes, but Im for real and Im going to let them know Im going to make it happen.

The Marlins designed this place with off-the-field distractions in mind, but say they want the focus back on baseball now. Time will tell if Guillen can keep this promise.

From now on, lets talk about winning and losing, how good we play and how bad we play, Guillen said. I hope this is the last time I will talk about this situation. And it will be the last time. It will be. I dont care if we go to New York, Atlanta, this will be the last time I talk about the issue.

Saturday on CSN: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs face Reds

Saturday on CSN: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs face Reds

The Cubs face off against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, and you can catch all the cation on CSN. Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks vs. Robert Stephenson

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World Series thank-yous follow Kris Bryant to Las Vegas

World Series thank-yous follow Kris Bryant to Las Vegas

MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant didn’t need to pose for a Crate & Barrel billboard in Wrigleyville or walk a goat around a Bed Bath & Beyond commercial shoot. Cub fans just kept sending him free stuff.

The wedding gifts actually shipped to his parents’ house in Las Vegas, where he honed the swing that landed him on a new Sports Illustrated cover that asked: “How Perfect is Kris Bryant?”   

This happens when you mention your registries on a late-night show with another Vegas guy (Jimmy Kimmel) after leading an iconic franchise to its first World Series title in 108 years.        

So Bryant will be the center of attention in Sin City this weekend when the Cubs play two split-squad games against the Cincinnati Reds. But that spotlight will pretty much follow the National League’s reigning MVP wherever he goes. 

At least this gives Bryant a chance to chill at the pool and organize the house he moved into in January. 

“My mom just kept throwing stuff in my car: ‘Here, take it!’” Bryant said. “Opening all those boxes, I can’t believe how many presents we got from fans. It was unbelievable. Jess is going to have to write all the thank-you notes. I’m just signing my name on them. You have literally like 700 thank-you notes to write.

“I said: ‘You need to just go get the generic thank-you.’ She’s like: ‘No, they took the time out of their day to buy us a present.’ This is going to take her the whole year. So if there’s anybody out there that’s waiting for one…”    

The wait is finally over for generations of Cub fans. Spring training will always have a “Groundhog Day” element to it. But this camp – with no major injuries so far or real roster intrigue or truly wacky stunts – has felt different. As the players get ready for a new season – one without 1908 looming over everything – they can’t escape what they did. 

“Every day something reminds me of it,” said Kyle Hendricks, who will start Saturday in Las Vegas. “Even going to throw in these spring games, when they announce your name and the whole crowd erupts because of the World Series. That wasn’t happening last year. 

“Little things like that make me notice. Something every day is brought to my attention, so it’s still getting used to that part.”  

The Cubs insist there won’t be a hangover effect in 2017, believing that this young group is too talented and too focused to get derailed by distractions and overconfidence. But the Cubs could go 0-162 this season and Bryant would still probably be breaking down boxes for recycling.   

“It’s funny,” Bryant said. “We just put cameras on my house for security and I’ll just look at it sometimes. I’ll randomly see my mom just unloading boxes. I’m like: ‘Mom, what’s going on? Are we getting more stuff?’ She’s like: ‘Yeah, we keep getting more boxes.’”