Miami Marlins Mike Lowell: Top Five Moments
Seventeen years ago this past Monday,Mike Lowell
became a Florida Marlin; this joyous day was marked in this month’s edition of
. But in the spirit of Groundhog Day, the staff at Marlin Maniac would like to honor the 1993Bill Murray
cult classic (it’s also a real holiday apparently) and Mr. Lowell by doing a bit of a repeat piece, looking back on our five favorite Lowell moments. It might not be a self-repeating loop of the space-time continuum, but it’s the best we could do. During his seven years here, he provided plenty of them to draw from. The five moments listed here are the first five that come to
author’s mind only- your list will likely be quite different. If it is, be sure to tell us via Twitter or in the comments. And now, slap off that alarm clock, and let’s take a look.
5.) Spring Training 2004
Nothing mattered more in the Spring of 2004 than making sure I was able to attend Spring Training and revel in the fact the Marlins had just won their second championship. Racing home from college over Spring Break, everything from the beach to the homework I’d brought with me was a distant afterthought when stacked against just how many Spring games I’d be able to squeeze in. After years of paying bargain prices for tickets to actual games at Pro Player, I assumed Spring games would be free, or at least in the ballpark of minor league ballpark prices. That was apparently false, and being a college student, that limited me to one shot to seek out all the autographs my heart desired. No autograph was more desired than Mike Lowell‘s. I already had it on a team ball, but I wanted the solo one for my collection.
Being treated to the game by my parents (again, poor college student),we arrived as early as I could push them out the door. There they were, World Champion heroes in arms reach. Rushing down to the railing, I saw my baseball hero walk past. Reaching out I shook his hand, and we conversed as men do, discussing baseball and the mysteries of the universe. He then gave me his autograph, and thanked me sincerely for coming all that way to see him.
Ok, actually he signed countless autographs for small adorable children, bypassed the awkward 19-yr old bouncing up and down amongst them, and proceeded down the line to the next group of small adorable children. I probably could have fought harder, but I did have that team ball, so eased off on the midget trampling I briefly considered. Still, twas disappointing. The only thing that fell faster than my spirits was my jaw when my mother ripped the hat off my head, and clothes-lined her way through a crowd…returning a few minutes later with an autographed hat. But I got his autograph!
And thanks Mom.
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4.) The Non-At Bat
This one might be better suited for a Jack Mckeon retrospective than a Lowell one, considering he was on the bench for this. But it’s always one of the first things I think of when No. 19 comes to mind. In the 10th inning of a tie game against the Braves, after collecting his third hit of the contest, Lowell found himself pulled for pinch runner Mike Mordecai. This was the breaking point for a fan already furious at Trader Jack for leaving reliever Braden Looper in the game after giving up two-thirds of a three-run lead to open up the bottom of the 9th. Let’s just say it backfired. Pulling the team’s best hitter of the night for a guy batting .208 on the year provided all the evidence needed that the old man had gone senile. With the game on the radio during a board game night, I spent nearly three innings regaling the household with Lowell and Mordecai statistics, cursing the universe in between.
The crescendo came when Mordecai stepped in to take Lowell’s at- bat in the top of the 12th. The only thing louder than my ranting was my dad’s laughter when Mordecai tattooed a towering blast over the left field wall for the game winner.
3.) 2005 Gold Glove
Scott Rolen is the devil. Well, he was the devil. Well, at least that’s what I thought for about six years. Lowell’s 2005 Gold Glove was validation that the good guy could win. Because from 2000-2004, the good guy lost. Lost to Scott Rolen. Lowell was one of the best fielders in the game, but failed for five straight seasons to capture the top defensive honor. The first three times, Rolen posted significantly better offensive numbers, fueling a belief that home runs mattered just as much as fielding prowess. And to make matters worse, the player that kept beating out my favorite player played for my least favorite team- the Phillies. The only hope seemed to be if he was traded to the AL. Rolen was traded mid-2002, but to another NL team in the Cardinals. When Lowell garnered a World Series ring and a Silver Slugger in 2003, I thought the time had come for sure. Rawlings disagreed, giving it to Rolen for two more years. But in 2005, Lowell’s last year in Florida, his moment finally came.
Couldn’t have been happier. Well, until he was traded to the AL later that month. Scott Rolen would win again in 2006.
2.) 2003: First Half Home Run Chase
For half a season there in 2003, Mike Lowell was just about the best home run hitter in baseball. The season was shot. A.J. Burnett was lost for the year, they couldn’t get over. 500, and the manager had just been fired. But Lowell made baseball matter anyway, producing a stellar season where he went back and forth with single-season record holder Barry Bonds. Right up until the All-Star Break, the race was close, with Bonds’ 30 dingers just edging out Lowell’s 28. The last six seasons saw legendary tallies put up by Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. Lowell was giving fans cause to believe that this year’s star slugger would be wearing a Marlins uniform, shocking baseball night in and night out. Having blasted 25 shots through just three months, besting Gary Sheffield‘s club record of 42 seemed assured, with loftier marks in the realm of possibility.
Now, two things happened as June came to a close. For one, the home runs started to tail off, with Lowell hitting only seven over the next two months. But this didn’t seem to seriously impact the team as a whole- Miami would end June having climbed back to .500, and never look back en route to a second World Championship.
1.) 2003 NLCS Game 1 Pinch Hit
Of course, there was a moment in late August of 2003 where hopes of team and home run titles alike briefly came crashing down. On August 30th, Lowell found himself drilled by a Hector Almonte offering that broke his hand. He would be out at least a month, seemingly ending his season, and almost certainly ending the club’s chances for the playoffs. Except it didn’t. The Marlins went 19-9 the rest of the way to win the Wild Card, and Lowell even returned to limited action for the last game of the season.
Lowell struggled initially, going 1 for 7 between that last game and the two NLDS games he participated in. When the next round opened in Chicago, he was agin held out of the lineup. That is until he was called upon to pinch-hit to open up the 11th inning of a tie game, and hit a 3-2 pitch just over the right field ivy for one of the most satisfying home runs in Marlins history.