Miami Marlins

The D-Train made two stops at the All-Star Game, remains a South Florida favorite

Florida Marlins Dontrelle Willis and Lenny Harris celebrate their 2003 World Series championship win at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 25, 2003.
Florida Marlins Dontrelle Willis and Lenny Harris celebrate their 2003 World Series championship win at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 25, 2003. AP

The Marlins will be represented at the All-Star Game for the 25th time on July 11 when the Midsummer Classic is played at Marlins Park in Little Havana.

Gary Sheffield and Bryan Harvey were part of the Marlins’ first All-Star Game at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1993. In 2016, four Marlins (Marcell Ozuna, Jose Fernandez, Fernando Rodney and A.J. Ramos) were part of the All-Star Game in San Diego.

Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton were announced as members of the 2017 National League team on Sunday.

The Miami Herald looks back at the top All-Stars who represented the Marlins — from Sheffield to Stanton — through the All-Star Game on July 11.

Dontrelle Willis captured the hearts of South Florida as a rookie in 2003.

He seemed to give that love right back.

“I can't wait to wear that patch on my jersey to say I represent the Marlins,” Willis said upon being named to the 2003 All-Star team.

“I love my team.”

The high kick and wide smile of Willis helped fuel his popularity. So, too, did his quick and unexpected success on the mound.

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Dontrelle Willis pitches against the Phillies in 2003. Walter Michot Miami Herald file photo

After coming to Florida in a deal with the Chicago Cubs in 2002, Willis won nine of his first 10 starts after being promoted from the minors when Josh Beckett went on the DL.

Willis was a late addition by San Francisco manager Dusty Baker to the All-Star team roster in Chicago but that didn’t bother him one bit.

“I’ll be happy to just be there,” he said after being named to the team the Friday before the game. “It's such a blessing to be honored. This is bigger than anything I ever expected.”

Willis, 21 at the time, said he would cool with just hanging out “handing out sunflower seeds” and after pitching the Sunday before the All-Star Game, he didn’t have much to do as he didn’t appear in the game.

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Dontrelle Willis signs autographs before a Marlins game at Pro Player Stadium in 2003. Al Diaz/Herald Staff @adiaz@miamiherald.com

No one, however, enjoyed the experience more.

Willis was a phenomenon and everyone wanted to be around him.

“I'm happy for him,” outfielder Juan Pierre said at the time. “He's experiencing something at 21 — first time out —that a lot of guys don't experience their whole career. I think he knows that.”

Although Willis didn’t pitch in the All-Star Game in 2003, he did help the Marlins win their second World Series title as he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

“He brought an energy that I don’t think anybody in Miami had seen before,” said former Marlins catcher Mike Redmond.

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Fans of Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis hold up signs during a game against the Chicago Cubs on July 20, 2003. WILFREDO LEE AP

Willis’ biggest success with the Marlins came in 2005 as he went 22-10 and finished second in voting for the Cy Young Award.

He was an All-Star in 2005 and probably should have started after leading the majors with four shutouts and tied with 13 wins and five complete games.

St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter was selected by Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa to start.

That snub didn’t seem to bother him, either.

“We're at the All-Star Game, man,” he said. “This is the Midsummer Classic. It's a beautiful thing for your family, for your organization, for yourself, for your teammates to represent them in a big game. It's good just to be a part of it.”

Unlike his first All-Star Game, Willis did get into the 2005 game and gave up what would be the game-winning home run to Mark Teixeira in the sixth.

“It was great. I had a great time,” Willis said. “I hope I get a chance to come every single year and pitch. It was fun pitching to the greatest players in the land.”

That game in Detroit would be the final All-Star appearance for the D-Train.

Willis went 22-17 in 2006 and 2007 with the Marlins and then was traded away in one of the biggest deals in franchise history.

Willis was part of Florida’s blockbuster trade with Detroit which sent Miguel Cabrera — still one of baseball’s best players — to the Tigers in exchange for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller (an All-Star this year with the Indians), Burke Badenhop and other prospects.

In Detroit, Willis’ success ended as he never again reached the heights of success he did in South Florida.

In five seasons with Florida, he was 68-54. His wins are second-most all-time behind Ricky Nolasco and is second in games started as well.

Upon leaving the Marlins, Willis won just four more games in parts of five seasons with Detroit, Arizona and Cincinnati.

In 2015 — after not pitching in the majors since 2011 — Willis announced he was retiring.

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Marlins manager Jack McKeon talks to Dontrelle Willis during the 2003 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. JOE RIMKUS JR/MIAMI HERALD STAFF MHS

“Baseball’s lost a colorful character,” former Marlins manager Jack McKeon told the Miami Herald at spring training in Jupiter.

“He was great for the game. I hate to see him quit so early, and I wish he could have had more success after he left here. But, unfortunately, those things happen.”

Willis is currently an analyst for Fox Sports.

CELEBRATING THE MARLINS ALL-STARS

Sunday, June 18 — Gary Sheffield (1993, 1996)

Monday, June 19 — Jeff Conine (1994, 1995)

Wednesday, June 21 — Hanley Ramirez (2008, 2009, 2010)

Friday, June 23 — Mike Lowell (2002, 2003, 2004)

Monday, June 26 — Luis Castillo (2002, 2003, 2005)

Wednesday, June 28 — Charles Johnson (1997, 2001)

Thursday, June 29 — Kevin Brown (1996, 1997)

Friday, June 30 — Dan Uggla (2006, 2008)

Monday, July 3 — Josh Johnson (2009, 2010)

Thursday, July 6 — Dontrelle Willis (2003, 2005)

Friday, July 7 — Miguel Cabrera (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)

Sunday, June 9 — The complete Marlins All-Star team (1993-2017)

Home Run Derby Monday, June 10 — Giancarlo Stanton (2012, 2014, 2015)

All-Star Tuesday, June 11 — Jose Fernandez (2013, 2016)

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