Freddy Guzman saw a breakout year in 2003. He showed the San Diego Padres front office that his signing in 2000, as an undrafted free agent, was paying dividends. He played at all three levels in the Padres minor league organization (Lake Elsinore, Mobile and Portland), batting a combined .280 with three homeruns, 33 RBI's, with 95 runs scored and 90 stolen bases, which represented the most steals by any minor leaguer in 2003.
"I did everything that year. Hit, run and stole many bases," said Guzman.
In 2004, Guzman continued his ascent up the Padres' minor league ladder by again playing at three levels (Mobile, Portland and San Diego). He started in Mobile of the Southern League for the first 35 games of the season and batted .283 with five doubles, two triples, 16 walks and five stolen bases. From Mobile, he moved up to the Beavers for the next 66 games, batting .292 with 48 stolen bases in 53 attempts. He ended the season with the parent club, the Padres, and batted .211 with five RBI's, three walks and five steals in seven attempts over 20 games.
"It was exciting playing in the big leagues," Guzman admitted. "It was nice getting my first base hit and first stolen base in the big leagues. It's what I like to do."
His injury was a major blow to his psyche and career aspirations, especially considering that being a centerfielder he depends a lot on his ability to throw. After playing for the Padres in 2004, he expected to start the 2005 season in the majors. But injuries are part of the game and he got bit at possibly the worst time as he was still trying to prove his worth to the parent club. After all, his major league career consisted of just 20 games. "It was hard. Any kind of injury is hard especially after the kind of year I had in 2004," Guzman reflected. "Any kind of injury is hard to come back from. I rehabbed in Peoria and in the Dominican. I have a personal trainer in the Dominican and he helped me get my arm strong again."
He knows he has lost valuable time to the elbow injury and takes nothing for granted.
"I have to work hard and to do what I like to do, hit, run steal bases and make good throws," said Freddy.
His value to the Portland team remains unquestioned.
"Obviously his overall speed is a big part of his game. We have a guy this year that can go from gap to gap and that is huge," said Colbert. "I am not worried about his stolen bases. His stolen bases are going to come."
His true potential has yet to be realized. He is still in the midst of his learning curve as far as baseball is concerned. He is only 25, which is still relatively young in life, but not so in the baseball world. The time is now for Guzman to make his impact on the Beavers to get another look from the Padres.
"He is an outstanding centerfielder and he needs to think about the game and game situations. He needs to keep learning about the game. He sometimes throws to the wrong base and he needs to know when to run and when not to run," said Colbert. "He is learning, but he still makes some mistakes in that aspect of the game."
In the off-season, Guzman makes his home in his native country, the Dominican Republic. With no hobbies to speak of, he enjoys spending his time with his wife and two year old son.
"I like being home with my family in the Dominican Republic. I like to spend time with my family," says Freddy.
His true hope is to bring the family to San Diego for good as a member of the Padres.