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A Decade In The Making

Content contributed by Randy Rodriguez, Head Baseball Coach at Miami Carol City High School.

Coach Randy Rodriguez may not be a household name in the South Florida high school baseball scene. His team, the Carol City Chiefs,  is not a perennial state championship contender. The program is also not a pipeline to major Division I college programs. Their home games are not littered with scouts holding radar guns and clipboards. In fact, at Miami Carol City High School there isn’t even a baseball field to host practices or home games.

James Falmer and Ayeo Randolph of Miami Carol City High School.

James Falmer and Ayeo Randolph of Miami Carol City High School.

In 2015, what the Carol City Chiefs baseball team did have was two returning players for the spring season: Ayeo Randolph and James Falmer. Although Ayeo, a 5’5″ 140lb outfielder, had finished the 2014 season hitless, he was committed to reinventing his swing and pursuing his dream of playing college baseball. While Ayeo’s mother, an All-Conference MEAC softball player at Florida A&M University, was the first person to teach him the game, the baton was soon passed to Coach Randy to help Ayeo take his game to the next level. By the end of last spring, Ayeo’s game had improved immensely and he motivated his teammates to join him in participating in the Marlins Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) summer program and work towards building something special in Miami Gardens. They were able to field a team led by Coach Randy and while the team finished the RBI Season 0-10, they never wavered in their commitment to show up to every game, play hard, and focus on getting better every inning of every game.

James Falmer was one of those players who was motivated to continue playing over the summer. Falmer may not have had the opportunity to participate in the Marlins RBI program had it not been for Ayeo’s persistence. Despite being a junior at Carol City, 2015  was James’ first year playing baseball and he started the spring season on the JV Team. He would ride his bike to school, practice at an offsite baseball training facility in Miami Gardens, and then travel back home on a daily basis. James’ swing quickly developed, leading to an early promotion to the Varsity Team where he would finish the season as the team’s batting champion, hitting .294. In addition to the on-field success, James spent late nights at the baseball facility completing his homework where he was able to access the Internet. Despite these obstacles, James dreams of one day earning his degree in sports administration and working for a professional sports franchise.

Ayeo Randolph representing Marlins RBI.

Ayeo Randolph representing Marlins RBI.

On January 30, 2016, Ayeobele “Ayeo” Randolph and James Falmer will sign letters of intent to play baseball at Morris College, becoming the first Carol City High School baseball players to do so in 10 years. Congratulations to Ayeo, James and Coach Randy!

All-Star Smiles

I’ve witnessed Giancarlo Stanton do some incredible things during his time with the Miami Marlins, but his most impressive display took place a few days ago. It wasn’t a 500-foot home run or a diving catch on the warning track, and it didn’t make SportsCenter’s top plays.

Earlier this month, Big G changed the lives of over 60 kids who had been pre-screened at Lenora B. Smith Elementary and identified as needing intense dental work. Giancarlo spent time with every single child who sat in one of the chairs at Spodak Dental from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

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Whether it was a little girl who was scared or a young man who was recovering from having his teeth extracted, Giancarlo was there with almost a superhero-like presence to make them feel better.

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At the end of the day, $50,000 worth of dental care was provided to children who, in some cases, had never seen the inside of a dentist’s office. It was most unbelievable to hear some kids say it was the best day ever; a trip to the dentist was the best day in some of these kids’ lives.

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Thank you, Giancarlo, for having Marlins Ayudan join you in making a difference this offseason.

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A Smile That’s Worth The Wait

As winter begins to melt into spring — or at least that’s what I hear from people outside of Miami — I find myself anxiously waiting for the start of Spring Training and this year’s baseball season.

Waiting… it’s something nobody really likes to do. Whether it’s in line at the grocery store or in traffic on the way home, nobody likes to wait.

Well, yesterday I met someone who is waiting. They are waiting for something far more important than what you or I wait for.

Three year old Asbel is waiting for a new heart.

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Yesterday, Billy The Marlin and I walked through the hospital doors and made our way to a room filled with family and friends surrounding this little boy from Panama. He could not have appeared to be happier, wearing his Marlins hat and a smile that could brighten any hospital room.

He sat up and began to go through the gifts that Billy had brought him. He shook his bobble heads, threw his new Marlins baseball, put on his “Super Billy” cape, and upon finding a canvas painting of Marlins Park, he let everyone know, “I want to go there!”

After a few pictures with Billy, countless high fives, and a “gracias and thank you” from this polite little boy, we left the hospital keeping Asbel in our thoughts.

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So, the next time you find yourself growing frustrated as you wait, try to be like Asbel and do it with a smile. Remember, there are people out there smiling while waiting for far more important things that there is no guarantee will ever arrive.

We’re all pulling for you, Asbel, and hope that your wait is almost over.

Still A PERFECT Night… Witnessing Something Special

It’s Saturday night at Marlins Park… if you were in your seats at the start of the 6th inning, you were already getting the sense that you may see something really special happen. Something you don’t talk about or even hint at: a perfect game. Crack! A clean base hit breaks up Henderson’s bid for perfection and many in the stands felt like they were almost witness to something special.

My take on Saturday was viewed through a different lens. You see, before Henderson threw the first pitch of the game, I had already witnessed something special. It was the Marlins Foundation Charity Partner Day and representing Special Olympics of Florida was Sabrina Meador, a young girl with Down syndrome. Sabrina was at Marlins Park for more than just a ceremony though; she was escorted to wait in the Marlins home dugout while her favorite player, Jose Fernandez, was about to surprise her with a bouquet of flowers. Jose turns the corner at the top steps from the clubhouse and Sabrina shouts, “JOSE!!!” darting over and embracing him with a great big hug, both smiling from ear to ear.
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This was not Sabrina’s first interaction with Jose… on National Down Syndrome Awareness Day, to create awareness and support, we are all asked to wear “funky socks” and show them off. The Marlins had a Spring Training game that day and the guys were ALL IN and excited to sport their polka dot Marlins socks during the game. Jose would go one step further and sent a young girl named Sabrina an autographed cap. She took to social media and her response was priceless (see below).

We’re back in the dugout of Marlins Park and Jose is showing Sabrina around when he informed her that she will be throwing out the first pitch and that he’s going to be the one to catch it. She is beyond excited and nervous at the same time, so Jose suggests that they warm up with a game of catch.
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The moment had finally come and I don’t even remember if she threw a strike or not, all I can remember is the look on her face as Jose walked out to the mound to congratulate her in front of the Saturday night crowd at Marlins Park… So while Henderson threw a two-hit shutout gem on his birthday (the game was the day after his birthday), all I could talk about for the rest of the night and the next day at Easter dinner was little Sabrina and the night that she will never forget.
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Something really special happened at Marlins Park last Saturday.

-Juancho

Firehouse No. 5 … Thank You

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12 years ago… A day that none of us will ever forget. Those aren’t just words, but a truth from one of the most horrific days in our nation’s history. I was just a student at Miami Senior High sitting in my US History class, when the attack occurred. For some people the shock and horror hit them immediately, but for me it did not register emotionally until days later watching the aftermath that there were people in those buildings and that families and this country would forever be changed.

12 years later… those other high school students who were sitting in classrooms around the country just like I was, have now grown up and followed in the footsteps of the countless first responders, police officers & fire fighters who lost their lives on that date in history. While I am fortunate to work for a professional sports franchise that values service and social responsibility, it pales in comparison to the impact that these brave men and women have every day of their lives. I am not alone in these sentiments and when Logan Morrison approached us with the idea of spending the day at a Miami Firehouse it was something I couldn’t be more proud to share with the City of Miami Fire Department.

Firehouse No. 5, is located just a few blocks from Marlins Park and Morrison being the only Marlin to ever wear number five, made it the perfect match. Logan visited earlier today, touring the firehouse and even throwing on the full 50 pound gear in case there was an emergency call. Thankfully no calls came in during Logan’s visit, but he did have the opportunity to share lunch with the crew and show his gratitude and listen to stories of their experiences. At times it was almost like a scene from the show “Rescue Me;” bonding in the firehouse kitchen with the crew and seeing everyone working together like a family, even when preparing lunch with 14 hands in the kitchen.

While Logan probably could have spent the whole day there, we had to eventually head back to the ballpark in preparation for tonight’s game. However, before we left Logan presented the house with an autographed jersey with the inscription “To the true heroes…” and presented each firefighter with a Marlins Ayudan Challenge Coin. Then they thanked us for visiting, which on a day like today, caught me off guard and all I could do was respond with, “No… Thank you.”

“Excellence Through Service” – quote on City of Miami fire trucks
-Juancho