3/11/2013 7:23 P.M. ET
Former Marlins make Classic return to Miami
Reyes, Ramirez lead Dominican Republic into Pool 2 play
By Christina De Nicola / Special to MLB.com
MIAMI -- Just under a year ago, Team Dominica's Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes garnered plenty of buzz as members of the new-look Miami Marlins.
Opening Night against the then-reigning World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals featured everything from Brazilian dancers to Muhammad Ali, as Marlins Park made its debut in front of a national TV audience.
On Monday afternoon, Ramirez and Reyes made their joint return in a more subdued affair -- World Baseball Classic workouts -- wearing a different uniform and aspiring for a different trophy.
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Ramirez, who beat out then-teammate Dan Uggla for the 2006 National League Rookie of the Year award, spent seven seasons with the Marlins after being acquired from the Red Sox in the Josh Beckett trade.
After a disappointing first half in 2012 kept the Marlins out of the postseason picture, Miami dealt the three-time NL All-Star, as well as lefty specialist Randy Choate, to the Dodgers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and a Minor League pitcher before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
The 29-year-old Ramirez finished with a .300 batting average, 148 home runs and 482 RBIs as a Marlin. He won the NL batting title in 2009 by hitting a career-high .342.
Yet, once the centerpiece of the franchise, Ramirez struggled in his final two years in Miami, with numbers well below his career averages (.243/10/45; .246/14/48).
"I think Jose and I don't keep bad things in our minds," Ramirez said. "We put that away on the side and keep getting better. Everybody knows this is a business. I think all the time we were here -- I think the fans, the team, everybody -- treated us good. We have good memories here we're never going to forget. We're really happy to be here."
Two offseasons ago, after winning the NL batting title with a .337 average, Reyes inked a deal for six years and $106 million with the Marlins. He left the Mets, the organization that signed him in 1999 as a 16-year-old.
Reyes, 29, quickly became a fan favorite in Miami. He and teammate Emilio Bonifacio popularized a "Lo Viste" hand signal they displayed following flashy plays that fans mimicked from the stands.
In November, Reyes was part of the 12-player blockbuster trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays, as Miami decided to push the reset button.
"We have unbelievable memories here," Reyes said. "I had the opportunity to play for one year here. The fans -- they showed me a lot of love. I'm just happy they can see me one more time here. I know I don't play for the Miami Marlins no more, but I can go out there and they can see me one more time."
When the Marlins first signed Reyes, a four-time All-Star, they asked Ramirez to move to third base, which paired the friends up on the left side of the infield.
Over the years, Reyes and Ramirez grew accustomed to seeing each other in the opposing dugout as NL East division rivals.
"Playing next to him is something you've got to be proud of," Ramirez said. "He's one of the more exciting players in the game. Everybody sees how he plays the game. He comes to play every day. For me, it's always going to be a pleasure."
With Team Dominica set to open Round 2 against Team Italy at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Reyes and Ramirez will play at least two more games together on the same diamond.
The Dominicans won Pool C with a 3-0 record. Reyes went 4-for-14 (.286) with three runs scored. Ramirez knocked a solo homer against Team Venezuela.
"For me, it was a blessing playing beside Hanley, seeing Hanley for so many years from the other side," Reyes said. "Last year just to have the opportunity to play for the same team with Hanley was an unbelievable experience. Now we're here at the WBC together again. That's something that we're never going to forget. Hopefully we can take the big trophy to the Dominican, and then we can enjoy it more."
Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.