When the All-Star Game was held in Miami last year, former Major League outfielder Juan Pierre didn’t miss an event. The veteran of 14 big-league seasons — including four with the Marlins — was determined to experience all of it.
“I went to the Futures Game. the celebrity thing, the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game,” Pierre said. “It’s a pretty cool event. I can see why guys would be excited to play in it.”
As a player, Pierre never did.
In fact, Pierre holds the distinction of amassing the most career hits — 2,217 — without making an All-Star team.
“It’s a pretty cool list to be a leader of. ... I guess,” Pierre said.
Pierre was a pesky, singles-hitting, bases-stealing spark plug on the 2003 Marlins team that won the World Series. He was an anomaly in the age of steroids, one whose game was built around speed and not power.
He hit only 18 career home runs. Sammy Sosa once hit 20 in a month.
Still, Pierre put up some impressive numbers.
Four times he finished with at least 200 hits, twice leading the league. Five times he stole at least 50 bases, twice leading the league. He didn’t miss a game from 2003 to 2007.
But never once was he an All-Star.
“People are, like, ‘Man, you never made an All-Star team?’” Pierre said.
His response has been: “It’s hard to be an All-Star, bro.”
Pierre surmises that it was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“When I was playing, you had Andruw Jones, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker — all these guys were playing well,” Pierre said of his peer outfielders. “And I was with Colorado and the Marlins, so it wasn’t like the Yankees. So I was under the radar.”
Pierre isn’t bitter about it. He shrugs and laughs when discussing it.
“I had a couple of years where I believe I could have made it,” he said. “ ’03 was a good year. ’04 — the year after — I think was my best chance of getting on.”
But the call never came. Pierre watched every All-Star Game from home.
“I would take winning the World Series over making the All-Star team any day of the week,” Pierre said. “So I have solace in that I won a World Series. But, from an individual standpoint, with the work you put in, you’re just a witness. You just wanted to be there.”
And even though his is an obscure record, Pierre takes some satisfaction in knowing it’s one built around a positive statistic — career hits — and not a negative one.
“To be on the leaderboard, at least it’s not for something for the most strikeouts or something without making it, most errors without making it. You know what I mean?” he said. “At least it’s on the hit side of it.”
Until this year’s All-Star Game, Pierre was in danger of losing his title. The Braves’ Nick Markakis has amassed 2,172 hits — only 45 fewer than Pierre — with nary an All-Star appearance.
But fans voted Markakis in this year as a starter.
With Markakis no longer a threat, Pierre figures to hang on to his distinction for quite a while longer. Among active players, Denard Span leads the pack of non-All-Stars with 1,457 hits.
That’s why Pierre, who lives in South Florida, was keen on taking in the All-Star experience last year when it was in Miami.
“I went to every game as a fan,” Pierre said. “Just so I could see it.”