By Vinny Micucci / MLB.comThe following was written as the Phillies were preparing to meet the Rays in the 2008 World Series.
Life has a funny way of unfolding at times.
As Nomar Garciaparra's popup came back toward the Dodger Stadium grass and settled into the mitt of catcher Carlos Ruiz to end Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, I could only think about John Marzano. The Philadelphia Phillies are headed to the World Series, and their biggest supporter is not here to see it.
My mind certainly wants to believe that he was watching it from above, but ultimately, the vision I have of him running around our New York City studios, screaming his head off and showing excitement for a team he pulled so hard for was not there.
Unfortunately, John Marzano passed away on April 19 at 45 from postural asphyxia. The time he worked with us at MLB.com and what he taught me will last for the rest of my lifetime.
I just really hope he has some idea, somewhere, of what is going on. As far as John knew, the standings on April 18 had the Phillies at 8-9, two games back of the rival Mets, who were on a four-game winning streak heading into Philly for a weekend series. As for the Rays, they were 7-10 and in last
place -- something we were all familiar with from recent history.
I just have this image burned in my mind of how John would be in all his glory with a Phillies World Series berth. John's Philadelphia roots were stronger than most ever experience in a city. He spent 10 seasons in the Majors, playing mostly with Boston and Seattle, yet his love affair was with a team he never had the chance to play for.
He played as a child on a field in South Philly, not far from where many get legendary Philly cheesesteaks. He played his college ball at Temple University, where he met his wife, Terri, and the two were later married in Philadelphia, all within a radius of several blocks.
Among John's best friends growing up was Anthony Stokes, who now owns a sports bar in South Philly. Over the years, John became an influence on Stokes' son, Anthony Jr.
"I couldn't believe it," Anthony recalled, after the Phillies had secured the National League pennant. "My friend jumped on me and picked me up. Then he pointed to the Marzano jersey hanging on the wall and told me I better thank him for this!"
So many people who knew John couldn't help but think that he was out there, an angel helping the Phillies to victory. Finally, after the longest baseball season the Marzano household had ever experienced, there was reason to believe that John was part of it.
"All of South Philly is saying that Marzy is with the Phillies and he is so happy right now," said John's sister, Kathy. "We miss him dearly, but we are trying hard to get through."
Certainly, for a city that had not seen a major sports title in 25 years, there had to be reasons as to why these Phillies were winning.
Another one of John's longtime friends was Danny Ferrazzano, who helped Marz run his baseball academy in South Philly. Danny has become one of my good friends, too.
"I have never seen people in Philly this happy in a long time," said Ferrazzano, struggling with his emotions. "You would have seriously thought that we already won the World Series. I mean, we have one World Series win in 125 years, so the Philly mentality is that things are always going to go wrong.
"But something was just different this time. Imagine what it will be like if Philadelphia celebrates down Broad Street."
I am pretty sure that John will be there somehow, because yes, something seems different this time.
Vinny Micucci is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.