"Ever since the first day he showed up for Spring Training, he had that special personality. He meant a lot to me and to a lot of the guys who played with him in Seattle."
Marzano played with Seattle from 1996-98, while Cora suited up in a slightly more featured role with the Mariners from 1995 through part of the 1998 campaign. Even after they went their separate way, they maintained steady contact throughout the next decade.
By Cora's estimation, they talked once or twice per week, every couple of weeks, at least. But the conversation never was limited to baseball.
"We talked about us and the families and even football," Cora said. "All that stuff. We kept in touch all these years, which was pretty nice."
Becoming a top-notch broadcaster, skills Marzano exhibited most recently as the co-host of a morning show on MLB.com, was of absolutely no surprise to Cora. In fact, Marzano would tell his teammates that he was headed to a career in broadcasting after his playing days were complete.
Hearing a healthy and gregarious individual such as Marzano was gone at the young age of 45 came as stunning news to Cora.
"It was a shock to me," Cora said. "I'll be honest with you, that's the last thing I expected.
"John was a health maniac, always eating right, running and staying in shape. He was always in the gym, working out. We kidded how he always looked good, and he would look good at 70 or 80.
"So, it was a shock to all of us," Cora added. "Man, it hurts a lot."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.