Juan Pierre did not start for the Marlins on Sunday. Even still, before the game he ran out onto the field to thunderous applause.
Pierre, a current Marlin, took part in the franchise’s celebration of the 2003 World Series team, with fan favorites such as Luis Castillo, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Jack McKeon and many more also in attendance. Even current Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera recorded a special video message for the occasion.
“That team was one of the best experiences of my life,” Pierre said before the celebration. “I haven’t seen some of those guys since the White House trip. We didn’t realize how special it was.”
Pierre isn’t the only member of the ’03 team still associated with the organization.
Then-catcher Mike Redmond is now the manager. “Mr. Marlin” Jeff Conine moved into a front-office role. Pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal now oversees the team’s young arms in the minor leagues. And according to team president David Samson, McKeon will be allowed to manage a game at age 87 to break Connie Mack’s record for oldest manager to lead a game.
McKeon became a hero in South Florida after the championship run. His success was amplified by his vibrant personality.
Samson recalled two stories about McKeon from the playoffs. After the Marlins won Game 7 of the NLCS, Samson and McKeon feuded on the bus when McKeon wanted to leave Chicago, but Samson halted his plans because the ALCS hadn’t ended yet.
And before Game 6 of the World Series, Samson hesitated when McKeon said he intended to start Josh Beckett on three days’ rest. Samson quickly gave in when McKeon asked Samson, “Do you want to win, Sparky?”
“The longer I’ve been in the game — it’s my 14th year — you realize you could go a whole a career and not win a World Series,” Samson said. “We don’t take it for granted what happened in ’03. We really were a family led by Jack.”
Though the players could easily recall the memories of their championship run, it was also clear how much time had passed. Aside from Pierre now wearing Miami across his jersey, many of the players had never seen Marlins Park, a big departure from Pro Player Stadium.
And for Carl Pavano, a self-described “bachelor” in 2003, the reunion was an opportunity to introduce his teammates to his kids for the first time.
“We have so many memories together, 10 years ago, it feels like it’s yesterday,” Pavano said. “Hopefully, we have one of these every year, I’d come back.”
Monday: No game.
• Tuesday: Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (2-1, 2.61 ERA) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.36), 7:05 p.m., PNC Park, Pittsburgh.
Scouting report: Alvarez has allowed only four runs in his past 27 innings.