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Marlins rookies work hard, dream of big leagues


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Marlins rookies work hard and dream of the Big Leagues

By MIKE ENGLISH

mike.english@scripps.com

July 9, 2006

They are the Florida Marlins you have never heard of ? yet.

 

You can find the Gulf Coast Marlins out behind Roger Dean Stadium, playing all summer on a back field. Admission is free, the crowds are small and the weather is hot ? most games start at noon.

 

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The Gulf Coast League Marlins are the draftees and free agent signees collected by the Florida Marlins this spring.

 

Unlike the Class A Florida State League, which is staffed with seasoned Minor Leaguers, the Gulf Coast League is entry level baseball.

 

It's a mix of college players, high school players who are away from home for the first time and Latin players who are in the U.S. for the first time.

 

Keeping the team going falls to second-year manager and former Major Leaguer Edwin Rodriguez.

 

"It's always a different crowd," said Rodriguez. "We may have a couple of second-year players this year but most of them just came out of the draft ? high school players, college players, some of them just 18 years old."

 

For most of the younger players, Rodriguez is their acting father as well as their manager.

 

It's a job, but they still have to have fun playing the game, he said.

 

"One of our main jobs at this point is to keep their confidence up," he said. "If they were drafted or they were signed, it was because they have talent and abilities.

 

"We have to develop their physical tools, but we also have to develop their confidence."

 

Through Thursday, the Marlins were 7-7, four games behind the Dodgers in the GCL East division.

 

They might be rookies but they're pretty solid, Rodriguez said.

 

"We have some pretty exciting players ? position players ? this year," he said.

 

Eight of the Marlins' top 25 draft picks are currently on the Gulf Coast roster including third-pick center fielder Thomas Hickman, fifth-pick catcher Torre Langley, sixth-pick pitcher Hector J. Correa, eighth-pick short stop Justin Jacobs and tenth-pick short stop Daniel Garcia.

 

So far this summer, Hickman looks pretty impressive, Rodriguez said.

 

"He reminds me of Jeremy Hermida," the manager said. "He came out of the GCL, too. Hickman is a left-handed hitter. He has a great swing and he's a very good athlete."

 

Marlins fans should also be hearing about Correa, a sixth-round pick out of Puerto Rico, Rodriguez said.

 

"I was very impressed with him. I'm from Puerto Rico but I hadn't seem in pitch in a couple of years. His composure is very impressive and he had great tools. His arm is very good. "He's very aggressive. He has a feel for the game. He throws 90 to 92 miles an hour."

 

Oh, yes, Rodriguez adds, Correa is only 18.

 

The Marlins play out of the Roger Dean complex in the Gulf Coast East Division along with the Mets (St. Lucie), the Nationals (Viera) and the Dodgers (Vero Beach) that play out of their Class A/spring training facilities.

 

The GCL North Division features rookie teams from the Indians, Braves, Yankees, Phillies and Tigers, while the South Division has entries from the Pirates, Twins, Red Sox and Reds.

 

There are no inter-divisonal games during the regular season, so the Marlins will see the same old familiar faces ? Mets, Dodgers and Nationals ? all season.

 

The GCL season kicked off June 20 and ends Aug. 21. There are 54 games on the schedule. Most home games are played at noon on the field immediately behind the left field Marlins' Club House.

 

Joel Fountain, the Fish's 27 pick (25th round) from California-St. Mary's College has his first taste of action against the Dodgers on June 23 at Vero Beach.

 

"I did pretty good," said Fountain, who started but ended up with the loss.

 

He pitched three innings, gave up two runs on four hits, still it was his first pro start.

 

"I'm really enjoying this. It's a lot of fun. It's a new experience," the Nevada native said.

 

"I'm just getting my feet wet here, finding out what it's all about."

 

The Marlins' organization is very upwardly mobile with players moving up all the time.

 

Pitcher Andy Jackson, the Marlins 28th pick in last month's draft, pitched four innings in relief for the rookie league team, throwing 7 2/3 innings, but he got called up by the Jupiter Hammerheads and threw an inning of relief in the ninth in a 10-5 win over the Brevard County Manatees on July 5.

 

The Marlins can keep 35 on the active roster but with other players working out at RDS there are between 40 and 45 players around.

 

"We may not even have the same players in a week," Rodriguez said.

 

"We have a lot of college pitchers on the roster," he said. "We have three or four who are on the disabled list and they are working their way back."

http://www.tcpalm.com/tcp/pro_baseball/art...4829270,00.html

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