MIAMI — The dream of the ’90s is alive at loanDepot park.
All weekend, the Marlins are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their 1997 World Series championship. That means turning back the clock — from the batting practice soundtrack of Boyz II Men and Third Eye Blind to the left-field scoreboard’s retro-fitted look reminiscent of the one at the old stadium. The ballpark’s new LED lighting system debuted teal highlights.
More importantly, 13 members of that club reunited on Saturday night. Several of them even greeted fans as they entered through the turnstiles, with the first 8,000 receiving replica championship rings. Gary Sheffield, who finished second on the team with 21 homers that season, said it had been years since he had seen some of his former teammates.
“When they first brought it up to us, they told us to come out, I didn’t realize how much time had passed,” Sheffield said. “When you are doing a lot of things and got a lot of things going on, and they tell you something like this, 25-year anniversary, you start reflecting a little bit. And then you start going back to memories and looking at the good times we had together.”
Joining Sheffield in the festivities were manager Jim Leyland, third-base coach Rich Donnelly, Kurt Abbott, Antonio Alfonseca, Alex Arias, John Cangelosi, Craig Counsell, Jim Eisenreich, Alex Fernandez, Liván Hernández, Charles Johnson and Édgar Rentería. Jeff Conine, who was part of both the 1997 and 2003 World Series-winning clubs, was out of town with Florida International University’s baseball team, which he is the associate head coach for, but he left a pre-recorded message that aired on the jumbotron. Mr. Marlin capped his remarks with, “I love you, Miami” in a tribute to Hernández’s famous declaration.
“We were only five years out from our birth so to speak, and to be able to reach the pinnacle of your sport after such a short period of time was amazing,” Conine recently told MLB.com.
Second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr., who wasn’t born when the Marlins won their first World Series, hung out with Fall Classic MVP Hernández in the dugout during pregame introductions and later chatted with Sheffield on the field. First baseman Jesús Aguilar, who would go on to homer in the fourth inning of Saturday’s 9-3 victory over the Brewers, said it was special to see Sheffield in person after watching him play as a kid. Skipper Don Mattingly also caught up with Sheffield, having worked together in New York. And right fielder Avisaíl García gave a big hug to his first big league manager, Leyland.
Marlins fans and employees alike fully embraced the nostalgia, wearing their vintage teal gear around the ballpark. That included Counsell’s brother-in-law Rock Hughes, who is the longtime visiting clubhouse manager. He showed up donning one of Counsell’s game-worn jerseys from the 1997 season.
The battery of Hernández and Johnson took part in the ceremonial first pitch as the rest of the 1997 club surrounded the mound, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Later, with the game in hand for the Marlins, Alfonseca was shown on the jumbotron dancing in full uniform inside the 1997 team’s suite.
“Talking about that stuff never gets old,” said Counsell, who is in his eighth season managing the Brewers. “It was one of the most fun times in your life winning the World Series. Share some stories with them. We always want to relive that stuff.”