White Sox Behind The Scenes: Grace Guerrero Zwit

White Sox Behind The Scenes: Grace Guerrero Zwit
February 14, 2014, 9:00 am
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Grace Guerrero Zwit Facts

How I get away from baseball: "Hang out with my husband and boys when I can. I'm away a lot."

Three people I'd take to lunch: Freida Kahlo, Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen

Favorite food: Pozole, Mexican soup (pork, hominy, combination of peppers)

Best advice I've received: "Be nice to everyone you encounter on your way up because you might encounter those people on your way down."

Listening to: John Legend, Esperanza Spalding

Next movie I want to see: 'Philomena'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- She's well practiced and has her documentation process perfected but Grace Guerrero Zwit probably will feel uneasy until Thursday anyway.

For more than 20 years, Zwit's duties for the White Sox have included handling the immigration process for the team's players.

The team's senior director of minor league operations since 2008, Zwit has become familiar with the task and is confident she will meet her deadlines, even in a pinch. But until each and every White Sox player has reported to the team's Camelback Ranch spring training facility Zwit can't help but feel nervous. This year as many as 10 players who need work visas could make the active roster.

[White Sox Behind The Scenes: Jeremy Haber, assistant to the GM]

"(Immigration is) the big thing right now," Zwit said with a laugh. "I will be so relieved next week when everybody is in place, everybody has made their flight and they're here."

Now in her 32nd season with the team, Zwit is indispensible.

Her duties include acting as a liaison for all the minor-league affiliates, coordinating expenses for the player development staff, the team's pro, amateur and international scouts and roving instructors and players. She acts as the club's liaison to Minor League Baseball and to the Commissioner's Office on all minor-league transactions.

Zwit helps organize spring training and monitors minor-league rosters as well assisting international scouting director Marco Paddy with the procurement process of Latin American players. As if that weren't enough, Zwit also coordinates English language and cultural assimilation courses for foreign players.

[White Sox behind the scenes: Dan Fabian, director of baseball operations]

"She does everything," assistant general manager Buddy Bell said. "And she's tough. She holds everybody's feet to the fire. She's organized. She gets involved in everything. I ask her about staff decisions."

Because she spoke Spanish, a friend recommended Zwit to then-general manager Roland Hemond in 1982. She was hired as a minor-league assistant to current Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. Zwit has worked for seven GMs and 11 player development directors in her tenure. She has seen numerous players come and go (one of her first assignments was to file paperwork when Greg Walker and Ron Kittle were added to the 40-man roster).

She also remembers when executive vice president Kenny Williams was a prospect. They formed a friendship and when Williams returned as a scout he turned to Zwit for information. When Williams was elevated to minor-league operations he had more questions and Zwit had more answers. Five seasons ago, Williams elevated Zwit to her current role.

"He came to realize what is done behind the scenes," Zwit said. "He wanted to focus on developing the player. He didn't want to worry about immigration. He didn't want to worry about when he could take a player off of the disabled list, is the roster at the right number?

"Just the different things MLB needs. He put me in this position so he could focus on what he's doing, focus on his job."

[MORE: Why Hawk Harrelson is so fired up about the White Sox]

Amateur scouting director Doug Laumann reiterated the sentiment and calls Zwit the "glue that holds things together." Because Zwit handles all documetation, Laumann can better do his job.

"We're fortunate that we have her that sometimes I can be a little relaxed in some of the things I'm not good at and just worry about the scouting," Laumann said. "I know it's going to get done and that's one less worry for me."

If it were just up to her, Zwit wouldn't sweat the immigration process. The minute a player requiring a work visa is acquired she's in contact with his previous club.

She knows all the boxes to check, where to sign documents and the key -- "the more information you can give them the quicker it gets done," she said.

But Zwit is only responsible for half the process. Players still have to make their appointments and their respective consulates must issue visas to those players. Including minor-leaguers, this year Zwit requested visas for 47 players.

"I have been doing it for 20-plus years so it has come to be where I have it down to somewhat of a science," Zwit said. "But (their arrival at camp) is one of the biggest reliefs for me."