SBJ/May 11 - 17, 1998/No Topic Name

Using the ones that got away

When old friends come to town, you want to visit with them.

The Florida Marlins are trying to make the most of that anticipated human connection this season by including several popular recent castoffs in their newspaper and radio advertising.

Kevin Brown, their estranged ace, got prime billing in a newspaper ad when he came to town with his new team, the San Diego Padres, earlier this month. Brown’s impact at the gate was minimal, but the Marlin’s aren’t sure what to make of that, since rain delayed the start of the game by 2 ½ hours.

The Marlins also used Rob Nen, their former closer, to promote a three-game series against the Giants last week, referring to him as "last year’s Marlins flame-thrower" in radio spots. Those smoke signals didn’t seem to be working either. The Marlins drew their smallest home crowd ever to the first game of the series.

The Marlins are on tenuous ground here. Their image took apocalyptic hits during the winter when they dumped a championship team in order to cut salary.

Each time the Marlins mention Brown, Nen, Devon White, Al Leiter or Moises Alou, they remind fans of the club’s stirring rise to the title, but they also remind them of the bitter strip-down that followed.

"There’s a fine line we have to walk here," said Jim Ross, the Marlin’s marketing director. "People are upset at us as it is. We don’t want to do anything to rub their noses in it."

The Marlins debated the issue before the season. Eventually, they decided it would be best to incorporate former players in their promotions so long as it wasn’t at the expense of the young unknowns who replaced them. But the club isn’t using photos or video of Brown, Nen or Alou in its promotional campaigns.

"When it comes to images, we want to promote our own guys," Ross said. "We’ve got some good young players and our fans need to see them.

"Visual Images are a big part of doing that. We’ll mention to our fans that Kevin Brown is coming to town, but if we’re going to show them a picture, it’s going to be Livan Hernandez."

The Marlins are different from most clubs that lose popular players in that Brown and the rest wanted to stay in Miami and were vocal about it. They’re not perceived as the bad guys. Club owner Wayne Huizenga is. So there is hope that fans will rally around nostalgia, revisiting the good times of last year by filling into Pro Player Park to see them.

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