Carlos Delgado compared yesterday morning to his first day of school. Finding out which way to turn in the hallways of Roger Dean Stadium at Jupiter, Fla., to find his new Florida Marlins jersey hanging in his locker.
"I knew I wasn't going to walk and see Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay," said Delgado, seated on an equipment trunk outside the Marlins clubhouse.
Talking to the greatest player the Blue Jays franchise ever produced, it was quickly evident that this was not similar to other spring visits with ex-Jays.
If Delgado was disgruntled about the Jays' two-year, $12-million US offer in October, he wasn't saying. The free agent signed a four-year $52-million deal with the Marlins on Jan. 25.
Delgado did not skewer his old team as George Bell did in Mesa, Ariz., predicting that the 1991 Jays would be worse than the Maple Leafs. Or like Tony Fernandez in Yuma, Ariz., saying "God will get even with the Jays" for dealing him to the San Diego Padres. Or Ed Sprague lashing out at then manager Tim Johnson, which cost Johnson his job.
In fact, Delgado praised former manager Carlos Tosca, fired in July, saying: "Carlos was an honest man and treated people fairly."
How difficult was it pulling on a black jersey with a Marlins crest? He had worn a Jays uniform since he was 16, when signed by scout Epy Guerrero.
"Walking in wasn't difficult," Delgado said. "I had time to prepare. I dealt with things over the off-season without knowing where I was signing."
Manager Jack McKeon will write Delgado's name in the lineup roughly 150 times in the clean-up spot behind lead-off man Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo and No. 3 hitter Miguel Cabrera. When did Delgado hit behind three players with these credentials?
- Pierre has averaged 99 runs and 50 steals the previous four seasons.
- Castillo has averaged 88 runs and 39 steals in six years.
- Cabrera has 45 homers and 174 RBIs in his first year and a half in the majors.
Delgado reported early yesterday. The Marlins' position players take physicals today and open camp tomorrow. After getting adjusted, Delgado hit in the bating cage.
Playing 10 seasons with Toronto, Delgado fell in love with the city and its culture, whether it was dining, music or going the theatre. He sold his Yorkville townhouse for $1.45 million and is looking at houses in Miami to experience the city's culture.
Delgado's dining hangouts included Lolita's Lust, Kit Kat and Asuka.
"Toronto is such a safe environment, coming to Toronto there was so much I'd never experienced," Delgado said. "It wasn't far from Yorkville to Little Italy to the Danforth to Chinatown.
"When it comes to cities, the top three for music and the theatre are New York, Los Angeles and Toronto."
Major leaguers don't get a lot of off-nights, but Delgado managed to take in Ragtime, Mamma Mia, Stomp, The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera.
Memories of Toronto? Delgado can't pick a favourite.
"I saw a young guy like Halladay struggle, bounce back and win the Cy Young Award, I saw Wells blossom into an all-star. I saw Shawn Green and Alex Gonzalez grow and develop," Delgado said.
The sadness for Delgado and the knock for some is that he has never played an inning in the post-season. He has a World Series ring from 1993, but his contribution was two at-bats as a September call up.
"I can look back at my 10 years in Toronto and say I gave it my all," Delgado said. "Just because you didn't win doesn't mean that you aren't any good."