Friday, March 28, 2008
Conine returns to Florida, retires from baseball as a Marlin
MIAMI -- Jeff Conine signed a one-day contract with the Florida Marlins on Friday, so he could retire as a member of the team with whom he won two World Series championships.
Conine -- known throughout the organization as "Mr. Marlin" -- was 4-for-4 as the starting left fielder in the franchise's first game in 1993, and was part of Florida's title runs in 1997 and 2003.
Jeff Conine will be honored by the Marlins with a pregame ceremony before Florida's Opening Day game against the Mets on Monday.
He finished his career with a .285 average, 214 home runs, 1,071 RBIs and 1,982 hits in 2,024 games with six major league teams.
"To go from the beginning and where we were in 1993, a rag-tag organization, to winning a World Series, that's something very special," Conine said.
Conine will be further honored by the Marlins on Monday, with a pregame ceremony and by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before Florida's opening day game against the New York Mets.
"This was the right guy to honor this way," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said.
There's plenty of reasons why it makes perfect sense that Conine would want to leave the game as a Marlin.
Conine hit .290 in 1,014 games with the Marlins, and ranks among the club's all-time leaders in games (second), hits (1,005, 2nd), at-bats (3,471, 3rd) and home runs (120, 5th). He also hit six grand slams with Florida, more than any other player, and is the only Marlins player to earn MVP honors at the All-Star Game, which he did in 1995.
Somewhat ironically, his last game was against Florida. Conine was traded to the Mets for their playoff run last season; they wound up blowing a seven-game lead in the NL East with 17 games to play, with the final piece of the collapse coming in an 8-1 loss to Florida that kept New York out of the postseason.
He also played with Kansas City, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, and Conine has told the Marlins that he is interested in continuing work in baseball in some capacity. Florida seems receptive to that plan.
"We will explore that, soon," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said.