Marlins pitcher Jesús Luzardo grew up in Parkland, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and Miami that is characterized by transplants from the northeast United States and Latin America. Luzardo himself was born in Peru to Venezuelan parents prior to moving to Parkland when he was a year old. Based on the demographic makeup of his alma mater—Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—and surrounding schools, it would have been easy to fall into the front-running fanbases of the Yankees, Red Sox, or even the Mets. But he opted for “the hometown team,” the then-Florida Marlins.
“My dad fell in love with them, then my grandpa as well,” the 25-year-old Luzardo said. “They had a bunch of players that I was a big fan of. They were people I looked up to throughout the years. I mean, Anibal Sanchez, Juan Pierre, Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera—they had a bunch of guys that were like staples in South Florida for me.”
While Luzardo wears the number 44 now, he actually grew up wearing number nine because of Juan Pierre. He models his pitching game after fellow lefties Willis and Johan Santana. The former of which, Luzardo said, is who he took “a lot of pieces from” including his pitching mentality.
But before he was a pitcher for the now Miami Marlins, Luzardo’s first memories of the franchise that has called south Florida home for 30 years was in 2003. The then-six-year-old was one of 65,000 fans at Pro Player Stadium (now Hard Rock Stadium) to witness the Marlins in the World Series against the New York Yankees.
Speaking with Fish Stripes prior to Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Luzardo recalled times when his father would take him out of school early to watch the Marlins. Specifically, he recounted the time he got to leave early at 13 years old when Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson and Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez went head-to-head in April 2011.
Johnson and Jimenez were coming off solid years in which they were both selected to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and finished in the top-five of Cy Young Award voting. The Marlins won that day, 6-3, behind a seven-inning, one-run performance by Johnson.
Fast forward 11 years later, Luzardo gets to take the mound for the hometown team every five days. While the team is three generations removed from the teal jerseys Luzardo and the rest of the fanbase fell in love with, the Flashback Friday promotion allows the Venezuelan pitcher to relive his childhood. Only this time he gets to be part of the game he grew up watching from the orange seats of Pro Player Stadium.
In this last iteration of Flashback Friday on March 31, Luzardo pitched a gem. Adorned with a teal hat, white jersey with pinstripes, and the famed teal script MARLINS across the chest, Luzardo pitched 5 2⁄3 scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory over the Mets.
“To suit up in that was just awesome,” Luzardo said. “It just brings back a lot of good memories and you feel the history that the Marlins have.”