JUPITER -- Ryan Dempster, who began his career on a 1998 Marlins team that lost 108 games, announced Sunday that he would not pitch in 2014 due to injuries and his desire to spend time with his family. Whether Dempster, 36, ever pitches again remains to be seen, as he stopped short of terming his decision a retirement. [Read story here.]
Dempster made his major league debut with the Marlins eight days before Marlins manager Mike Redmond made his with Florida, represented the Marlins in the 2000 All-Star Game, and went 42-43 during his five years with the team.
"Demp was a warrior, the ultimate competitor," Redmond said. "We really cut our teeth in the big leagues together with 108 losses that first year. It wasn't easy for any of us. But I know we were all better off for it down the road."
Redmond said he was especially pleased to see Dempster win a World Series ring last season with the Red Sox.
"I was so happy for him what he did last year," Redmond said. "To get that World Series ring was huge. I wanted every one of my teammates to enjoy that experience, and I'm glad he did. He had one helluva career."
Dempster made his big-league debut on May 23, 1998, giving up three runs in a 1-inning relief stint against Pittsburgh. It was a rough beginning for Dempster, who was charged with 12 runs in his first three outings, all in relief, and he finished the season with a 1-7 record and 7.06 ERA.
But he turned into a solid starter for the Marlins before being traded to Cincinnati in a 3-way deal with Montreal midway through the 2002 season. His 42 wins with Florida ranks seventh on the franchise's all-time list, just ahead of Josh Beckett's 41 victories as a Marlin.
JUPITER -- Perhaps more than any player on the Marlins, Tom Koehler is intensely interested in the Winter Olympics. As pitchers and catchers were reporting to spring training Sunday and putting their lockers in order, Koehler was about the only person keeping an eye on the clubhouse television, which was turned to figure skating from the Sochi games.
Koehler's interest goes beyond the fact he's from New York state. He said his grandfather, Josef Koehler, was a top ski jumper for Germany in the late 1930s and early '40s. Koehler said Josef was chosen to represent Germany in the 1944 Winter Olympics.
"It's a little known fact on the family tree," Koehler said.
But Josef Koehler never had a chance to jump in the Olympics. Due to the war in the European theater, the '44 Games were cancelled. Not only that, but Koehler said his grandfather ended up driving a tank for the German army, fighting against the Allies.
"What he went through at that point, the Olympics were the least of his concern," Koehler said. "It (fighting for Germany) wasn't something he was proud of. If I remember correctly, he told me it was either join or get killed. So it's pretty simple, when you're that age, what your choice is going to be. If they didn't join, they would kill you."
Koeher said when his grandfather died in 2006, his funeral card contained a photograph of him as a ski jumper.
As for Koehler, the ski jumping gene wasn't passed down to him.
"I can't get off the bunny hill on a snowboard," Koehler said. "I tried when I was younger. I would go a couple of times and I guess that just wasn't genetic."
The photo above, provided by the Koehler family, shows Josef Koehler in action in his ski jumping days.