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Reflecting on 26 seasons as the Marlins mascot and making the case


"What’s been longer than the government shutdown? The baseball offseason.Fish Stripes recently learned about the Marlins’ plan to have FanFest this year on Feb. 9 Reggie Sanders Jersey , the week before the team officially reports to Jupiter for the start of spring training and finally begins preparation for the 2019 campaign.That news got us thinking about all the changes that have hit the franchise by storm. Those that know baseball know it’s changing for the better. Chip Bowers, Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman are focused on improving the fan experience with Marlins Park renovations, friendlier food and ticket prices, and eventually, a consistent winning team.But understandably, many fans already lost hope years ago. They’ve seen many faces come and go through South Florida and no success to show for it—the playoff drought is at 15 years and counting.The one stable “face of the franchise” since 1993? Billy the Marlin.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsThat face is expected to get a makeover for the new season, according to SiriusXM host Craig Mish:His responsibilities will remain the same—Billy is heavily involved with the community during the holidays and in general. He brings energy to game day and gives personal attention to as many children as possible.As Billy “adjusts” to a new phase of his baseball career, we reflect on what he’s done so far...Billy the Marlins circa 1993Original owner H. Wayne Huizenga had his reasons for choosing Marlins as the franchise’s nickname and mascot. The species is known for its fighting nature and how tough the fish is to catch.Growing up in South Florida you went to Marlins games. You remember the hot muggy days, the tailgate parties in the parking lot, catching a baseball in the bleachers and a tan at the same damn time. Yes sir, those were the days! The Jacuzzi, the Manatees, the girls.Like a good pal, Billy has seen it all with you.Remember when Hanley kicked the baseball into left field and was walking after it? Billy was there. Remember watching utility man Mike Mordecai try on the catcher’s gear? Billy was there , too. When Charlie Hough threw the first pitch, when Counsell scored the game winner in ‘97. Yes, Billy attended even when we said goodbye in 2011. The mascot was a constant at Joe Robbie, Pro Player, Land Shark, Dolphin and Sun Life. (Ironic they had so many names at the last venue, but can’t sell the naming rights for Marlins Park.)Since 2012, we’ve watched baseball in Little Havana. There has not been the same kind of joy without a World Series run, but the new place has hosted cool events like the World Baseball Classic, and sweeps of the Mets, Braves and Nats.Marlins Park has also seen the rise and fall of Heath Bell, Ozzie Guillen, Dan Jennings, Mike Redmond Joe Morgan Jersey , David Samson, Jeffrey Loria and most recently “Homer” the center field sculpture. One thing that hasn't changed — that can’t change for Marlins fans— is the connection we all have with Billy. He is the bridge between generations.From the good-hearted pranks to the laughs to the pictures with fans to launching shirts and baseballs into stands and funny interactions with home and visiting team players, Billy is everything you ask for in a mascot and more.The Rally Monkey in Anaheim for the Angels, except BIGGER!Lou Seal for the Giants, but BETTER!Billy didn’t mind when other Marlins would step into the spotlight. Gary Sheffield was once the big fish when he was in town, then Dan Uggla stole his thunder. He sure didn’t seem to mind handing the power triton over to Carlos Delgado during his lone season here and watching Giancarlo Stanton capture an MVP! Six no-hitters happened in his presence, too. Billy has been to more games than dancing Tony from Section 31 bro!! He ain’t going anywhere; he is just getting a makeover to be bigger, better and stronger!Just how the Marlins are preaching #OurColores and a genuine connection to the community, we need #OurMascota/#OurMascot. There’s been no better representative of the franchise over the past 26 years. We are lucky to have him over that green goof the Phanatic or that big head from Flushing we shall not name.Grid View Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports AFP/Getty Images Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPhoto by Marc Serota/Getty Images Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesEvery single one of us reading this article and will share memories one day with our kids! They’ll either be smiling or crying in terror after meeting good ol’ Billy the Marlin at the home games. ESCUCHAME/LISTEN It would be ludicrous—crazy, una locura, te digo—to have the Marlins without Billy. A makeover? Yes! Si! For sure! But to scrap his whole existence during this rebrand is completely ABSURD and OUT OF QUESTION.Last thing they want to do is upset every abuelita listening to Marta Flores on Radio Mambi when Juan Martinez of the Marlins comes up on the show talking in Spanish saying, “No mas Billy.”Billy upgraded to an acrylic head nearly two decades ago.Throw Billy on a diet plan. Put him on Slim Fast for the offseason, lower the sugar intake on his coladas. Change his “see-food” diet to plain seafood, a tummy tuck and we should be good to go. Like all of us Dave Concepcion Jersey , he is just evolving. I’m excited to witness 2019 Billy at FanFest next month.Mark your calendars: baseball’s right around the corner. Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesThe Cleveland Indians announced Thursday that they acquiredAll-Star closerBrad Handand pitcher Adam Cimber from the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher Francisco Mejia.Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic first reported the deal.Hand has appeared in 41games this season and boasts a 3.17 FIP. His 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings are on pace to be a career high.Hand first became a full-time reliever in 2016 after the Padres claimed him off waivers from the Miami Marlins. The left-hander then enjoyed a career year,posting a 2.92 ERA and a 3.07 FIP, and averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.Hand was even better in 2017 after replacing Fernando Rodney and Brandon Maurer as San Diego's regular closer. He registered 21 saves and struck out an average of 11.8 batters, while his ERA and FIP improved to2.16 and 3.03, respectively.The Padres rewarded Hand with a three-year extension worth $19.7 million. The contract includes a $10 million club option for 2021.Elite closers are generally luxuries for losing teams rather than necessities, but Hand's contract provided the Padres with at least one reason to consider keeping him.By giving Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million deal this past offseason, the franchise indicated it wants to be a winner in the near future.By 2021, San Diego may have climbed toward playoff contention, at which point having somebody such as Hand would be much more important.With that said, Hand's contract also meant the Padres could demand even more in a trade. He's under team control for up to three more years, so San Diego didn't have to settle for a meager return because it risked losing him for nothing in the offseason.General manager A.J. Preller has done well to rebuild the Padres' farm system after they tried to fast-track their journey back to the playoffs in 2015. Much as he did with Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and James Shields, Preller flipped Hand for younger players who further strengthen one of MLB's best farm systems.Following the 2018 MLB draft , Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter placed the Padres third behind the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox in his farm system rankings. Although San Diego is headed for an eighth straight losing season, the team's outlook is undeniably bright.Although their bullpen was one of their biggest strengths last season, it is now the Indians' biggest Achilles' heel. Andrew Miller is on the DL, and closer Cody Allen currently has a 4.66 ERA.Hand fills a huge need, and Cimber should contribute as well since he has a 3.17 ERA in 41 appearances this season.The 22-year-old Mejia has appeared in just one MLB game this season, but he is a highly touted prospect due to his hitting ability.In 79 games at the Triple-A level, Mejia is hitting .279 with seven home runs and 45 RBI this season.For the Indians, acquiring Hand is a win-now move, but his contract ensures Cleveland has some time to show this trade was worth it. Should the team fall short of its goal in 2018, Hand will be around for 2019, 2020 and potentially 2021.Cleveland paid a steep price for Hand, but there are multiple avenues through which this can be a worthwhile venture. Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs
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