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Smith reflects on ex-teammate Marzano

Smith reflects on Marzano

MILWAUKEE -- For third-base coach Steve Smith, the chance to attend his daughter's college graduation is a thrill.

Despite the happiness Smith will share while away from the Phillies on Friday and Saturday -- as daughter Allison accepts her diploma from Pepperdine University -- he'll take a moment to think of another father and friend who won't get to see any more happy moments.

John Marzano.

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Standing in the clubhouse at Miller Park, Smith thought of his friend, whom he knew from 1996-98, when both were in Seattle. Marzano passed away on Saturday, leaving behind a wife, two daughters and two grandchildren.

"It's still shocking," Smith said. "I have a daughter, and she would always hang out with his daughters. It just kills me."

Smith wishes he could attend Friday's memorial service, but will be thinking of "Johnny Marz."

He naturally had to laugh while relating two stories.

One happened in Cleveland, when Marzano was tracking a foul popup near the Mariners dugout. He got too close to the screen, and ended up making a face plant.

"When he stepped away, there was an impression of his face," Smith said. "When we went back the next time, I said, 'Johnny, look your face is still there.' Some guys you can't joke with. He loved it."

The second tale took place on July 20, 1996, when the Mariners were playing the then-California Angels in Anaheim. Edgar Martinez, normally the team's designated hitter, was manning third base in what turned out to be his final appearance there as a starter.

Pat Borders hit a swinging bunt in foul territory that both pursued. Marzano made the play, but collided with Martinez. Both ended up leaving the game, and Martinez broke four ribs.

Mariners head athletic trainer Rick Griffin related the story of the aftermath.

"[Then-Mariners manager Lou] Piniella told Marzy, 'What are you doing going after that popup? That's the third baseman's ball,'" Griffin said. "Marzy said, 'But Edgar isn't a third baseman, he's a DH.' It was the last time Marzy caught and Edgar played third in the same game."

Though he probably already knew, Marzano realized his place in the pecking order when the Seattle medical staff attended to Martinez and largely ignored Marzano, who was replaced in the game by Dan Wilson. Smith said that he would always brings that up whenever the two would see each other.

"'How about that time I'm laying on the ground and nobody came to me?'" Smith said, relating what Marzano would always say. "I'm going to miss that. He was so happy last year when the Phillies made the playoffs. You couldn't help but smile when he was around."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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