Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Royals left fielder paid dues

Guiel proud of journey through minor leagues

April 13, 2004


— In a nine-year minor-league odyssey that stretched across 935 games in two countries, Aaron Guiel played every position but pitcher and shortstop.

It's a journey the 31-year-old Kansas City Royals left fielder was proud to make.

"All my experiences have made me as hungry as I am," Guiel said. "If I was a 21-year-old rookie who got $3 million to sign, I don't know if I'd be as good a player as I am. I wouldn't realize what kind of price you have to pay."

And without him, the Royals just might have half as many wins this year.

The blond, stocky Canadian has driven in seven runs with six hits this season, including two home runs and the go-ahead RBI double in a 3-1 victory over the Indians on Friday night. He's also made three great defensive plays, twice cutting down runners at second who were trying to stretch singles into doubles.

"We're 4-2, and without Aaron Guiel, we would probably be about 2-4," third baseman Joe Randa said.

He came within an hour or so of never making it to Kansas City. At 27, Guiel had been released by Oakland and was stranded in the Mexican leagues. He called his fiance and told her he'd finally decided to give up. He was returning home to Vancouver to begin a new career in the family's commercial real-estate business.

The call from the Royals came an hour later. Two years after that, at 29, he finally made his debut in the majors. This year, at 31, he went to the Royals' spring training camp assured for the first time in his career of a job in the major leagues.

"I look at it like this," he said. "There's a reason why I went down to Mexico. There's a reason why I played three years of winter ball. There's a reason why I had to go through the many things I did. It shapes you as a person."

One thing he learned was plate discipline. It was Guiel's two-run double in the seventh inning that broke a scoreless tie against the Indians on Friday night.

In Saturday's 7-6 victory over Cleveland, his left-handed stroke produced a two-run home run and a two-out, game-winning single in the 10th -- against a left-handed reliever.

"People are going to be talking about how well he's swinging the bat, and he really has been hitting the ball," Royals general manager Allard Baird said. "But his defense is equally important, as is his presence in the clubhouse."

Guiel said he spent all those years in the minors to gain experience, which he can now tap in the big leagues. At the top of the lesson list: work hard and play smart, especially on defense.

"There are a lot of players who don't take their defense seriously enough and it really shows," he said. "You can't wander off. You can't daydream. As soon as you do, sure enough a ball's going to get hit to you and make you look foolish. There's nothing more embarrassing than standing out there after you've made a poor play."

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