SARASOTA, Florida—Jeff Conine has long been known as Mr. Marlin. But after Derek Jeter took over the Miami Marlins, Conine has been looking for another opportunity in baseball. Conine was with the Marlins for eight years as an adviser and broadcaster after his playing career concluded.
Conine was an original Marlin in 1993 and played eight seasons there in two iterations, playing on both of the franchise’s World Series winners.
He also played six seasons with the Orioles from 1999-2003 and again in 2006. The Orioles traded Conine to the Marlins in August 2003.
Conine returned to Baltimore to watch a game last September and spoke with general manager Mike Elias about a possible role with the team.
Elias called him last month, and the two of them settled on a week in spring training. Conine arrived Monday, and is working with the infielders and outfielders.
Conine, who last played in 2007, is 53 and still lives in Weston, Florida, a suburb of Miami. During his time with the Marlins, he became acquainted with Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.
“Obviously, I knew him really well with the Marlins,” Conine said. “I had seen him in action, had talked to him a lot about the game. I knew that with this situation, with a lot of young players, this would be a perfect fit for him because he’s just that kind of guy, high energy.
“He gets it, especially in the clubhouse, as far as people, a lot of times not subscribe to the chemistry in the clubhouse argument. I think it’s a huge thing, and so does he, and I think he’ll build a nice culture.”
Conine’s role is a limited one for now. He said he’s not planning to do any broadcasting work with the Orioles this season.
“I’ll be here for a week,” Conine said. “They basically said, ‘How long do you want to be here?’ I said: ‘A week is probably a good length to start with,’ and we’ll see from there.”
Conine never played on a team that won as many as it lost in Baltimore but has fond memories of playing with Cal Ripken Jr., Brady Anderson, Mike Bordick and Brian Roberts.
“I loved Baltimore,” Conine said. “I remember every time we broke camp for Opening Day, we went to the ballpark, set up the lockers. I remember going out at night and looking at Camden Yards with my dress clothes that I had worn up from spring training, just a happy place.
“I really enjoyed all my time in Baltimore. Those days, get to play with Cal and Brady and Mike and B-Rob and all those guys. It was just a good time and we had good teams and a great atmosphere at Camden Yards. When anybody ever asks me my favorite place I ever played, I say Camden Yards is my favorite.”
Hyde is thrilled having Conine around.
“He’s had such a wonderful career,” Hyde said. “He just brings a ton of experience, a tough player, a player that everyone respected around the league.”
“This game is hard. We all know that. There’s a certain level you want to get to, not just being to happy to be here, but going out and competing to win.
“A lot of guys are taking that next step and starting to play with an edge, playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. A lot of guys are unhappy with the results of the last couple of years they’ve been here, and I think bringing somebody’s that’s a winner and that’s been in tough games, been in a tough division, I think our guys are going to take to that great.”
During the last two years, Conine got to watch his son, Griffin, play at Duke, and then get drafted in the second round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018.
“It’s probably more nerve-racking for me than for him, watching him play, because I know exactly what he’s going through,” Conine said. “And when you see your son go through a slump or struggles, you know exactly what you want to tell him. I try to stay and let him figure his own way out, but he had a great year last year and he works really, really hard, and he’s got a chance to be really good in this game.”
Conine is proudly old school baseball, which is an interesting mix with the analytics-heavy Orioles.
“I worked with the Marlins for eight years, and they weren’t very analytic-heavy,” Conine said.
“They started getting into that more before I left, but I don’t know. I think it’s going to pull back a little bit. I think a lot of organizations went all-in in the analytics and that’s the only thing they relied on, but I still believe, and I’m an old school guy, in the human elements in evaluating players, evaluating personalities, which a lot of analytics, they don’t tell you anything about the guy.
“They tell you what he’s good at on the field, but I think for me, and I think Brandon Hyde subscribes to this too, is that you want that human element, especially evaluating what it’s going to be like in the clubhouse … I think we’re going to have a nice blend of both, analytics and scouting coming up soon that’s going to bring that chemistry and that character back into it a little bit more than analytics will show you.”
One of Conine’s teammates on the Marlins was reliever Bryan Harvey, father of Hunter Harvey, and Conine realizes how much time has passed.
“I feel old, really old,” Conine said. “And then yesterday Brian Roberts was like, ‘Come on, let’s play catch.’ And I’m like, ‘Um, all right, I haven’t thrown a ball in a while.’
“I stopped pitching to my son because I started hitting him when I was throwing batting practice to him. I was done with that. And one game of catch, I woke up this morning and I’m like, ‘Why is my shoulder so sore? I played catch for five minutes and my arm’s killing me.’ It sucks getting old.”