Bill Downen of West Palm Beach was first in line to get the autograph of new Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond on Tuesday morning.
Matter of fact, he was the only one in line, waiting alone between a couple of practice diamonds for the kind of easy catch that never would have happened here last spring.
“I didn’t get Ozzie (Guillen) last year,” said Downen, 55, one of about 35 fans who showed up to watch the Marlins’ opening workout for pitchers and catchers on the back fields of the Roger Dean Stadium complex. “Ozzie always seemed to wave and take off in his golf cart.”
Those were the showtime Marlins, a limited-engagement extravaganza featuring a brassy manager with a reputation for being unmanageable and a star-studded roster that was ripped apart by owner Jeffrey Loria after just one last-place season together.
Spring training 2013 will be a quieter affair, more intimate, all hope and absolutely no hype. How could it be otherwise when the manager is immediately out throwing batting practice to a kid wearing No. 74, and that kid, catcher Jake Jefferies, was actually closer to operating in the major leagues last summer than Redmond was?
“I’m trying to play it cool, but I’m really excited,” said Redmond, 41, who managed only the Lansing Lugnuts and the Dunedin Blue Jays before this. “To be the manager of this team, I take a lot of pride in that. … I think these guys will get a sense of what I’m all about, which is fun.”
Not the loud and frequently loony fun that Guillen always tried to manufacture, mind you, but not the cautious delivery of someone unsure about his audience, either.
Redmond is a clubhouse classic. He’s serious when he needs to be, as proven by a career .996 fielding percentage that is second all time among catchers, and silly whenever the tension takes a dangerous rise.
Those stories, for instance, that you heard about Redmond taking indoor BP in the nude in order to help the 2003 Marlins break out of a slump, they’re true. Must have worked, too. That team won the World Series with Redmond as the backup to Pudge Rodriguez, an achievement that hopefully will give Loria more patience with this manager than with most.