It was Mike Fiers’ night, but, in baseball terms, he shared the spotlight with a former teammate who is about to become an extremely wealthy young man.
On Wednesday night, Nova Southeastern University held a ceremony to honor its Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Fiers, a pitcher and a part of the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros, was one of three inductees — along with Romain Onteniente (men’s soccer) and Shurell Burton (women’s soccer).
In attendance supporting Fiers was major league outfielder JD Martinez, who is considered the No. 2 free agent in baseball this winter, ranked behind first baseman Eric Hosmer. (All three of those players competed at Broward County high schools: Hosmer at Plantation Heritage, Martinez at Flanagan and Fiers at Deerfield Beach.)
Martinez, according to the New York Post, is expected to command a five-year contract worth about $120 million. And that could be a conservative estimate for Martinez, who is a Scott Boras client.
Fiers, jokingly asked if he were about to ask Martinez for a loan, replied: “No, he’s earned it.”
Martinez, 30, split 2017 between the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting .303 with 26 doubles, three triples, 45 homers and 104 RBI in just 119 games. His OPS was a robust 1.066.
Fiers, 32, pitched in 29 games for the Astros this season, including 28 starts. He went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA but was left off the postseason roster.
Even so, Fiers was in the dugout for every postseason game.
“Not being able to help my team on the field was tough, but I was in there cheering, pumping up my teammates,” Fiers said.
Fiers said the most intense moments of the postseason happened in Game 5 of the World Series, an instant classic that went to the Astros 13-12 in 10 innings.
Two games later, the Astros were champions, lifting the spirits of the residents of Houston, many of whom have endured great loss this year because of Hurricane Harvey.
“It was a tough time,” Fiers said of the storm that directly led to 63 deaths and displaced more than 30,000 people because of flooding. “We [the Astros] were on the West Coast when it hit, but a lot of families [were impacted].
“I think the city came together [after Harvey], and that made us strive even harder to win the World Series for Houston.”
Fiers and Martinez were only teammates for one season at NSU. That 2009 team actually had three future major-leaguers.
Pitcher Miles Mikolas went 7-2 with a 2.06 ERA, serving as NSU’s co-ace that year with Fiers. Mikolas, 29, has pitched in the majors with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers and is reportedly set to sign with another major league team after a successful three-year stint in Japan.
Fiers led the 2009 NSU Sharks in wins, finishing 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA. Martinez hit .428 that year, leading NSU in batting average, hits (80), runs (73), homers (15), steals (8), on-base percentage (.530) and slugging (.770).
That NSU team — coached by current athletic director Mike Mominey — did not reach an NCAA Division II regional, finishing 37-19.
The NSU baseball program reached its potential in subsequent years, however, as Mominey hired coach Greg Brown, who led the Sharks to the 2016 national championship and five regional appearances in the past seven years.
Brown, who was also present on Wednesday night, said it was great to see how “humbled” Fiers was by the honor he earned.
“It was a really cool event,” Brown said. “Mike was great, and there were a lot of different generations of players represented.”