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.
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.
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.
Something really special happened at Marlins Park last Saturday.
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
“I WON THE RBI SCHOLARSHIP!!!”
That was the text message I received last Friday to kick off the weekend.
Immediately I was overcome with excitement as if it were I who had been awarded the scholarship, telling anyone who would listen how another one of our RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) players had been awarded Major League Baseball’s “RBI for RBI” Scholarship. Megan Diaz, a senior at Miami Senior High School and a third year RBI participant, became the sixth player in the past five years to be awarded this prestigious $20,000 national scholarship presented to notable members nationwide of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program.
In her senior year, Megan served as captain for her high school softball team while excelling in the classroom, maintaining a 5.24 GPA and completing multiple advanced placement classes. Following the RBI season, Megan will be taking her talents up to Gainesville, FL, to attend the University of Florida, where she will study to become a pediatrician. Megan also has aspirations of walking on to the Gators’ softball team.
Personally, receiving the news about Megan was a thrill for me because I had the privilege of serving as her RBI coach for the Miami High School team (my alma mater) during the regular season, and then again on the All-Star team. Last summer Megan made the All-Star team and despite not having played in any of the first three games, she kept a positive attitude, supporting her teammates and staying prepared to contribute when the opportunity presented itself.
In the final game of the tournament, Megan entered as a late game defensive replacement in a tie game in right field. As the softball gods should have it, in the bottom of the 7th inning with two outs and a runner on second, the opposing team smoked a base hit to right field and with the winning run rounding third base, Megan fielded and came up firing. Players came spilling out of the dugout, but not because the game had ended, but because the runner was called out on Megan’s game-saving rocket throw! The game would eventually end in a tie, but it was the program’s first non-loss since 2009, and I could not have been more proud.
Megan shared with me that this was her most memorable moment playing RBI and when asked about it said, “I felt awesome as I ran into the dugout and saw my coach with a smile from ear to ear. I will never forget that moment!”
I hope she also knows that it was one of my most memorable moments not just as a coach, but also since becoming a member of the Miami Marlins.
For more information on the “RBI for RBI” Scholarship visit http://www.mlb.com/rbi
On Cuatro de Mayo, kids from City of Miami Parks and Recreation and Miami PAL were bussed out to Marlins Park for the 2nd Jr RBI Pitch, Hit & Run Competition. This baseball skills challenge measured who could drive the ball the furthest off a tee, throw the most strikes with 6 pitches, and blaze around the bases the quickest. This was a welcomed experience for the kids who had their games rained out from the nasty weather earlier in the week… but on this day, with the ballpark as the backdrop, it was picturesque. At the end of the day 12 kids from 4 different age groups advanced to the sectional round and we hope to see those Jr RBI shirts back at Marlins Park for the on field Regional Championships. The Jr RBI program is supported by Marlins Ayudan volunteers and sponsored by Marlins players Adeiny Hechavarria, Donovan Solano, and Nathan Eovaldi.
I have been playing fantasy baseball since I had access to a computer in my middle school library. I remember in 1997 as a 7th grader taking Raul Mondesi late in the first round because I thought he would be a 30/30 guy (nailed it!). However, after over 15 years of fantasy baseball drafts, none have come close to matching the experience I had with my buddies this year.
Our league commissioner Cory McLaughlin attended the FS Florida Fantasy Auction this past season, bringing a refuse to lose mentality with the prodding of his longtime friend Seth Masson. The bidding went back and forth at the Clevelander inside Marlins Park for the most coveted item: a fantasy baseball draft in the Marlins home clubhouse with special guest Michael Hill, the team’s General Manager. The auction ended when the final out was recorded, and when all was said and done, our league commissioner came out victorious with the winning bid and a sizeable donation for the Marlins Education Fund.
Draft day was finally here and as we all arrived to the ballpark we entered the clubhouse for a catered meal in the club house dining area where the big leaguers eat. With our bellies full we were now ready to enter “the war room” as we took our places in the center of the clubhouse on giant leather recliners armed with pages of draft cheat sheets, pencils, paper, and our self-proclaimed knowledge of who was going to be this year’s breakout fantasy stud. This was many of our first attempts at a live draft and staying focused was key, but how can anyone stay focused when a big league G.M. walks into your draft in the middle of the first round? Mike Hill was, in a word, awesome! Telling stories of past trades in Marlins history, giving advice to the group on who he likes to breakout this year, and even heckling a couple guys for drafting certain players who he felt were a reach. Round after round Mike went around the room looking over peoples’ draft sheets and helping them decide between player x and player z, it was a real thrill for all of us.
In the end, thanks to the Marlins Foundation, we were definitely the only fantasy league in the world to host their draft in a big league clubhouse with an MLB General Manager present… hopefully I will hit on my first rounder like I did back in ’97; c’mon Tulo!