Derek Jeter hasn’t shown his face at spring training since 2014, before he played the last of his 20 seasons as a shortstop with the New York Yankees. He’ll end his hiatus Wednesday when he shows up in street clothes to check out the Marlins — HIS Marlins — when they open camp in Jupiter.
“I’m sure it’ll be kind of different and odd,” Jeter said.
After four months of adjusting to his new corporate role as the CEO and part-owner of the Marlins, much of it spent sitting behind a desk and going around the community, shaking hands and posing for selfies, Jeter finally gets to return to the diamond and examine a creation of his own making.
It will be the first Marlins spring training not involving former owner Jeffrey Loria since 2001.
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It will be the first spring training for the Marlins not involving Giancarlo Stanton since 2009, the year before his big-league debut. He was traded under the new regime, as were Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon.
In their places will be a sea of new and unfamiliar faces, prospects acquired in those deals, as Jeter and majority owner Bruce Sherman go about the process of a top-to-bottom makeover of a franchise that hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2009 and hasn’t tasted the playoffs since ’03.
“If you think about it,” Jeter said Tuesday during a press conference at Marlins Park, “we took over the organization on Oct. 2, and there were no games to be played. It took us some time to get to know the players, and we still haven’t seen them play. For us, it’s like we’re a rookie going to spring training, as well.”
Most of the attention on Jeter and the Marlins to this point has been on the trades they’ve made, the unloading of a MVP and home run champion (Stanton), a stolen base leader (Gordon), and two others (Yelich and Ozuna) who helped form one of the best outfield trios in the majors.
But Jeter said he has left most of those decisions to his front office staff, focusing instead on trying to revive a revenue-challenged franchise that struggles to fill seats and gain the community’s trust.
Jeter said Tuesday that ownership has added new investors since the takeover, but refused to offer specifics as to the number, their identities, or the amount of their contributions.
Jeter maintained, however, that the organization is not cash-poor.
“This is a well-capitalized ownership group,” he said. “If we don’t add another investor, everyone is fine. So don’t think this is not a well-capitalized ownership group.”
Jeter also touched on a number of other topics.
He’d like to see the retractable roof left open for more games. He hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to keep the Home Run Sculpture. He said he has spoken with the family of late pitcher Jose Fernandez about some sort of tribute.
“We will honor Jose and what he’s meant to this organization in the near future,” Jeter said. “How we do that is still up for discussion.”
He even said players, in a departure from the strict policy involving facial hair with the Yankees, will be permitted to grow beards and mustaches, as long as they are “well groomed.”
Jeter on Tuesday also introduced the team’s new president of business operations, Chip Bowers, whom he hired away from the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Bowers’ task: generating more revenue.
He said he will look to secure naming rights for Marlins Park, seek new corporate sponsors, and sit down with Fox Sports Florida to discuss what is the least lucrative local TV rights deal in the Majors. That deal expires after the 2020 season.
“I think it’s very short-sighted for people to say this is not a baseball market, because it’s gone through a lot of change,” Bowers said. “And when there’s change, it’s hard to create sustainable enthusiasm around a product. That’s why I’m here. “
Jeter, of course, is at the center of the latest change.
“The offseason seemed like it went quickly when you’re a player,” Jeter said. “This offseason has been a long one. I’m looking forward to spring training getting underway.”