Jeff Conine

Selected by Florida in the 1993 expansion draft, Conine was one of only two original Marlins on their World Championship team of 1997. But by the time the team reached the World Series their two-time All-Star had become a platoon player. Just weeks after Florida’s dream season came to an end, Conine was traded back to the Royals, the team from which the Marlins had originally plucked him.

Nicknamed “Conine the Barbarian” in the minors, the right-handed slugger was named the Southern League MVP in 1990. The Royals’ first baseman of the future made a brief appearance with the big-league club, but suffered a broken left wrist. Recuperating from off-season surgery, Conine was unable to replace the ailing George Brett at first in 1991 and when the team signed free-agent first baseman Wally Joyner in December, Conine became expendable. A year later the once-vaunted prospect was left unprotected in the expansion draft.

Conine was Florida’s eleventh pick in that draft and immediately became a key component in the Marlins lineup. He hit .319 in his first season to establish himself as a consistent performer and in 1994, he was the Marlins’ lone representative on the All-Star team. But he truly earned his All-Star status with a breakout season in 1995, when he batted .302 with a team-leading 25 homers and 105 RBI — the first Marlin to top the century mark in ribbies. That season, he was named All-Star MVP after hitting the game-winning home run off Steve Ontiveros to lead off the eighth inning. When his season was temporarily interrupted by a severe hamstring pull, it broke his consecutive games-played streak at 307. He had played in every single Marlins game to that point.

Conine collected 174 hits to set a club record in 1996, and had career-highs in homers (26), runs scored (84) and doubles (32). But he got off to a slow start in 1997, perhaps the result of eye problems he’d experienced in mid-1996, and slumped for much of the season. An outfielder for most of his Marlins career, Conine became a platoon player at first base when the Marlins acquired Darren Daulton for their late-season pennant drive and finished the season with just a .242 average. He saw limited action in the post-season but remained a fan favorite because of his Original Marlin status.

Conine didn’t escape the massive salary dump of the defending champs. On November 20, he was dealt to Kansas City for pitcher Blaine Mull, leaving the Marlins as their career leader in numerous offensive categories. Injuries limited him to just 93 games in his second stint with the Royals and the following April he was sent to Baltimore for right-hander Chris Fussell.

A fine athlete who moonlighted as a championship-caliber racquetball player, Conine proved to be a solid performer for the Orioles, driving in 75 runs in 1999 in a variety of roles. His most interesting experience in Baltimore came in the spring of 2000 when manager Mike Hargrove tried to tutor him as Cal Ripken’s understudy at third base.

Conine had only played the position a few times since a failed experiment with the Marlins in the spring of 1995 led to the acquisition of Terry Pendleton. His next chance came in the late innings of a tied game at Seattle in August 1999, when Conine fielded his only chance with his outfielder’s glove and promptly fired the ball past the first baseman. But Conine improved enough at the hot corner to make just three errors in his 22 appearances there (including seventeen starts) over the first half of the 2000 season.