When the Mariners traded him before the 2004 season, he was going to a Tigers club that had just lost 119 games and didn't have a long history with Venezuelan players. He nearly joined the Indians earlier that offseason, but Omar Vizquel, the player he was being traded for, failed his physical.
"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 Reina], 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."
The rest is history. The Tigers went from 43-119 in 2003 to the World Series in '06 to perennial contenders, and Guillen was a big part of it. Now retired, Guillen returned to Comerica Park on Friday as the guest of honor for the team's annual Fiesta Tigres luncheon. He'll be honored in a pregame ceremony on Saturday for his induction into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame.
It's the Tigers' way of honoring Guillen for the first time since he retired from baseball this past spring. Asked what he misses about playing the game, Guillen said, "Everything."
"I still miss baseball," Guillen said. "I still miss going to the ballpark."
Guillen has stayed involved in the game. He runs an academy near his hometown of Maracay, Venezuela, that now has about three dozen players trying to prepare for professional careers, and he said he has been approached by Venezuela's baseball federation to play a role nationally, possibly in next spring's World Baseball Classic. He isn't ready to coach yet, preferring to stay at home with his kids, but he didn't rule it out.