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Boone asked to assume leadership role

Eddie Altamonte

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Boone asked to be a leader for young Marlins

Aaron Boone, 33, will be called upon to provide leadership to a young and up-and-coming Marlins team.




JUPITER - It's tough enough to be 33 in the big leagues, where suddenly you're one of the older players.


Then you walk into the Marlins' clubhouse.


''It's like I was 40,'' said Aaron Boone, who is the Marlins' grizzled veteran this season.


''I looked at the 40-man roster and looked at the lack of the 1970's birthdays,'' he said. ``It's unbelievable.''


Boone had to think a minute to come up with a Marlin for an age comparison.


''Maybe Beinfest,'' Boone joked, referring to general manager Admin Beinfest. ``He's not on the roster, is he? I think I'm younger than all the coaches.''


Boone has a sense of humor and a great pedigree. He plans on making the difficult adjustment from everyday player to platoon player who fills in at first and third base and steps off the bench to pinch-hit. He is expected to do all that and also fill in the role as the Marlins' elder statesman.


''He serves a couple of services,'' said first-year Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who is just nine years older than Boone. ``One is to fill that right-hander-off-the-bench spot, and to spell Mike Jacobs a little bit at first base -- but also to be a leader. He's been around, and he's a good guy. We need that role on this ball team because the young guys can learn a lot from a veteran like him.''


Boone was bred on baseball, a third-generation ballplayer who played for his father, Bob, a former catcher and manager, and with his brother, Bret, a scrappy second baseman when he was with the Reds. Aaron's grandfather, Ray, was an infielder.


''He's a baseball player, that's for sure, and he's got baseball instincts,'' said Marlins infield coach Perry Hill, who will have the task of teaching Boone how to play first base.


Boone saw the difference after one day.


''I don't really know how to articulate it,'' he said of Hill's technique of teaching. ``He says a lot of meaningful stuff. Sometimes you get out there and guys say things that you [the writers] could tell me, like yeah, that's great. But everything he says has a purpose and a meaning, and he explains it and you think, wow. I feel like I'm already better after having just one session with him.


'It's a work in progress. I think people think, `Oh just throw him at first and he'll be fine.' But the idea is you want to be good at first.''


Boone, who spent the past two seasons in Cleveland, has spent nine years in the big leagues, and his peers know him as an upfront, stand-up guy, the kind every clubhouse welcomes.


''He's going to bring a lot of help to us younger kids,'' second baseman Dan Uggla said. ``He's got World Series experience. He's got playoff experience, and he's been about everywhere you can be on a baseball field at every level. He is going to fit in great.''


Boone knows this is a young team, but he was glad to join a team he believes can win -- even if there is a big gap in age. He doesn't plan to run with the kids on the road.


''Being [out] with these guys? That would be tiring,'' Boone said. 'I'm going to have to say, `Guys, you go do your thing. I've got to lay the body down. I need my rest, boys.' ''


The Marlins are paying Boone $925,000 to fill that leadership role, and Boone wants to make it a perfect fit.


''Anytime you sign with a team, you hope it's your last stop because that means it's going good for you personally and going good for them,'' Boone said. ``I'm not looking past this at all. I'm looking forward to being the best player and person I can be.''

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