It’s spring 2002. The Arizona sun glistens on the freshly cut
grass of Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Ariz. A warm breeze whips
through the field as nary a cloud can be seen on the horizon of
what promises to be another beautiful March day in the land of the
While taking in nature’s beauty, Colorado Rockies players
stretch out on the field getting ready for the day’s exhibition
match against the Chicago White Sox.
As with every spring, hopes and expectations run high for the
ballclub and serving as a testament of those hopes is the mass of
fans surrounding the Rockies clubhouse waiting to catch a glimpse,
and perhaps a signature, of their favorite Rockie.
Amid pleas of “Mr. Walker will you sign my ball,” or “Mr.
Hampton could you sign my hat,” the players stroll by, ignoring the
pleas as if they were a backdoor slider.
Then comes the hero, the hardest working of the bunch, the man
who runs out to the field at the break of dawn to field balls and
doesn’t return until late in the afternoon when he finishes bunting
practice; then comes Juan Pierre.
Wearing his baggy pinstripes and a cap two sizes too big, he
strolls over looking more like a ball boy or a coach’s son than a
Grabbing the first ball he sees, he sighs with effortless
He catches up with those who care to chat and makes sure he
signs every article from every little hand that appears through the
bars that block the entrance to the clubhouse.
It’s an easy task, but a monotonous one as well – signing the
ball, bat, hat, card of every man, woman and child that appears.
When knowledge that someone is signing flows to the other fans in
the rafters, the crowd in front of the clubhouse grows larger.
First 25 fans, then 35, then 50, soon everyone wants a piece –
if not just for memory then for a collection – of the speedy,
light-hitting leadoff man of the Rockies.
But Pierre does not relent, does not shrug off the late-comers;
he signs away as if he were aloof to the endlessly growing number
of fans flowing his way with memorabilia in hand.
Finally, some 45 minutes after his initial arrival, the
26-year-old, Alabama native looks over the group and asks, as would
a waiter in a restaurant: “Has everyone been taken care of?”
With a positive response from the multitude, Pierre grabs his
bat and glove and heads into the clubhouse.
The Rockies no longer have the pleasure of seeing the work ethic
of Pierre on a daily basis, neither do fans of the Rockies have the
pleasure of seeing the 2003 Major League stolen-base leader patrol
centerfield in Coors Field 81 games of the year.
Traded prior to this season, Pierre now roams the spacious
centerfield at Pro Player Stadium with the Florida Marlins,
entertaining the sparse thousands that take in games there.
Hustling with every play as only he can, patrolling center with
the enthusiasm of a little-leaguer, hitting .305 with 204 hits,
stealing 65 bases and scoring runs with reckless abandon, Pierre
has helped lead the surprising Marlins back to the postseason.
The team may not get far, and may never again reach such
heights, but for one year, at least, Pierre will taste the
postseason atmosphere, play in a game that counts more than any
other, and say all his hard work led him to the ultimate level of
It couldn’t have happened to a greater athlete or a better
man…Go get ’em Jaun!