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04/19/08 9:37 PM ET

Mariners saddened at Marzano's death

Former Seattle catcher, 45, passes away at home in Philly

ANAHEIM -- The first time Mariners bullpen coach Norm Charlton met John Marzano was in the summer of 1984, when they were teammates on the U.S. Olympic Team.

"He was the life of the party back then, and he never changed," Charlton said on Saturday. "We came from two totally different worlds, him from South Philly and me from South Texas, but we became friends and were friends ever since.

"We played against each other on the way up [to the Majors] and spent a lot of time together when we were in Seattle. He was a great teammate, a great guy to be around. This is a sad, sad day."

Marzano, 45, a first-round Draft pick in 1984, died this weekend at his home in Philadelphia, where he suffered a fall down a flight of stairs, reportedly after a possible heart attack.

Marzano played in 130 games for the Mariners from 1996-98, had 82 hits in 326 at-bats, hit five home runs and drove in 28 runs. He was best known for his happy-go-lucky attitude and the friendships he made with Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.

Mariners head trainer Rick Griffin said he received a phone call early Saturday morning from former Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds telling him of Marzano's death.

"Marzie brought a lot of energy to his teammates," Griffin said. "He kept guys loose with his sense of humor, and when he got a chance to play, he gave absolutely everything he had. He left his heart on the field."

Charlton, Griffin, manager John McLaren and part-time baserunning instructor Rich Amaral, who is attending the Mariners' three-game series against the Angels this weekend, all spoke on Saturday about the influence Marzano had on their lives and how much he will be missed.

"He was a great, great teammate, one of the funniest, quickest, wittiest guys I ever played with," Amaral said. "He had that swagger and could light up a room. He had so much value to our team because of his personality. He brought our team together because he had a way of being able to communicate with everybody."

McLaren said it felt like "somebody hit me in the gut" when he first learned of Marzano's passing. "John was a good friend of mine and when I heard the news, it really shook me up." He had a way of always making you laugh and had a passion for baseball and for life. I smile just thinking about the guy and our friendship and he will be deeply missed.

John Marzano

"He has been a great friend for a long time," McLaren added. "We were together with the Red Sox in '91 and again in Seattle. I last saw him at the Winter Meetings and talked to him three our four times since then. He was doing so well in his new career."

Marzano, who also played for the Rangers during a 10-year MLB career, was in his second season as an on-air personality at MLB.com.

Griffin said Marzano's second career fit the former catcher perfectly.

"We always teased him about knowing exactly where to be to get on TV during a game," Griffin said.

That usually was in the dugout celebration following a Griffey or A-Rod a home run. Marzano used to say that congratulating Junior and and/or Rodriguez was the only way his daughters -- Dominique and Danielle -- could see him.

Charlton recalled the time when some fans were razzing Marzano.

"One guy asked Marzy how many home runs he had," Charlton said. "Without missing a beat, he turned around and said, 'Junior and I have combined to hit 50.' Of course, Junior had 49 of them."

McLaren recalled that three of Marzano's closest friends in the game were three of the game's biggest names.

"I remember telling him that one of the hardest decisions he would ever have to make would be to choose who to have dinner with -- Junior Griffey, A-Rod or [Roger] Clemens," McLaren said. "Knowing him, he'd find a way to have dinner with all three. John was a wonderful person."

And he definitely left an impression.

"He was a stand-up guy," Charlton said. "He laughed and joked and played around, but ask him a question and you would get an honest answer. He was a working man's player."

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