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Lots of love, emotion for the 1997 Florida Marlins

Technologically, and emotionally, 1997 was such a different time around here — in journalism, in baseball, in Miami.

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten as close to a local team as I did to those champion 1997 Marlins. I went to the hospital with outfielder Moises Alou to write about the birth of his child during the playoff run. I sat in cleanup hitter Gary Sheffield’s penthouse apartment to write about the view from way up there atop sports. I shared breakfast and stories at a diner with Manager Jim Leyland. I rode shotgun in Livan Hernandez’s sports car, next to the World Series MVP trophy, as he whizzed by the Miami Herald building on his way to the next party.

And, because I got to do that and because sharing is my job, you kind of got to do that, too.

"I love you, Miami," Hernandez, a Cuban defector, would say famously that year, in a way that still echoes for me, and in the charming, two-language accent we all recognize around here. My love of journalism and baseball and South Florida — my own version of "I love you, Miami" — was cultivated in the Herald’s old building by the bay, all this colorful insanity swirling around it in the only city I’ve ever loved.

I remember coming in and out of the Herald building with these intimate stories about Alou and Sheffield and Hernandez, the excitement of having that access, getting readers a little closer to the action than they would be from their seats or on TV. There was an intimacy in that, during such a personal and emotional time when everyone wanted to be closer to all this.

That year was so personal for me, sports as always a life metaphor. My parents fled from Cuba, and so did Livan Hernandez, and there was a sting in my eyes while writing about him in the press box, something that had never happened before and has never happened since while a game was going on and deadline approached. His mother was allowed to leave Cuba to watch him pitch, and she stayed here upon arrival to chase the American dream, and I remember how it looked and felt to see her in the ballpark as our anthem played — a distinctly Miami story.

That Herald building made it possible to experience things like that, you and me, you with me, the seed that produced the tree that produced the fruit.