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A Team I Am Proud Of

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It's great, fabulous, wonderful, marvelous the Marlins have taken over the lead in the Wild Card Race.  It's fantastic that their fortunes rest solely in their hands. That isn't what I want to write about.  

On Monday afternoon, before the game, 20 members of the Marlins organization visited those displaced by Hurricane Katrina at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  Sun-Sentinel

Team owner Jeffrey Loria made the rounds with fistfuls of tickets for the first two games of this week's all-important series against the hometown Astros. The Marlins gave out 1,600 free tickets in all.

Loria's employees worked the room handing out hundreds of Marlins caps and T-shirts and toys. Tons of toys. An entire truckload of donated items made the trip from South Florida.

Just now Paul Lo Duca walked by clutching a small stuffed bear. Spotting Nicolas in his stroller, the Marlins' catcher reached down and tucked the bear under one of the sleeping child's arms.

The boy's mother smiled. So did Lo Duca as he moved on to another table to find another child cut adrift by nature's fury.

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A few yards away Louisiana product Juan Pierre sat at a table with the Reeder brothers. Jacob is 7, Listritus 8.

Pierre handed them a pair of toy fighter jets. He autographed the jets, then spent a few minutes with the boys marveling at their intricacies.

And then he took off with his brother, holding the toy jets overhead as they ran down the hall.

Jeff Conine handed a teddy bear to a New Orleans woman named Rochelle Hart. She hasn't seen her mother in weeks, isn't sure if her extended family is dead or alive, but she was smiling now.

Until Monday she had never heard of Conine. Would she name the bear?

"Yes," she said. "After him."

Mike Lowell was there. Andre Dawson. Guillermo Mota. Damion Easley.

Todd Jones sat at a table with a family of four and just listened. Then he gave that family his home address and phone number and told them to call for help once they got settled.

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Josh Willingham handed out Bibles and signed devotional books from his Alabama church. A handful of fellow rookies, including Jeremy Hermida and Chris Aguila, kept retreating into room 318-F for a fresh batch of toys.

Third-base coach Jeff Cox wore a Tigger cap as he handed out goodies. First-base coach Perry Hill walked around asking, "Who wants to go to a ballgame?"

Hitting coach Bill Robinson tried hard to control his emotions.

"When you hear their personal stories and see how appreciative these people are," Robinson said, "it brings tears to your eyes."

Watching it all with a mixture of sadness and amazement was Loria, who spoke fondly of these "very kind, very gentle people."

He had seen his team go into Yankee Stadium and win a World Series. He had seen his team go into Wrigley Field and complete an improbable comeback.

But never had he been prouder to be called Marlins owner than Monday.

And I have never been prouder to be a fan of the team.

More on Todd Jones' visit