Lone remaining Marlins big bat, Bour embracing new role
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — There are few fixed rules regarding the Miami Marlins’ early-morning spring training clubhouse schedule.
Players are free to grab an omelet, maybe take some extra swings in the batting cage and socialize.
But when “Runaround Sue” blares over the clubhouse sound system, it’s time to get down to business.
“I play a song every day like five minutes before the morning meeting so people can know, if the song is playing, we’ve got five minutes before we have the meeting,” said first baseman Justin Bour, who selected and plays that early ’60s Dion classic for no particular reason.
Nationally best known for his doughnut-fueled All-Star Game Home Run Derby battle with eventual winner Aaron Judge and for, from time-to-time, standing on his head during pregame stretch, the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Bour won’t ever be confused, either in stature or demeanor, with Miami CEO Derek Jeter.
But if Jeter is the new face of the Miami franchise, the 29-year-old Bour is probably the most distinguishable figure on the diamond.
“It’s nice to be a recognizable face of the Marlins,” Bour said. “I hope I do a good job of representing the team, the organization and the city of Miami, to a degree, so it’s good.”
Considering what the Marlins lost from last year — former All-Stars Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon all traded away — Bour suddenly finds himself as the biggest bat, and personality, in the Marlins lineup.
“I think people recognize JB,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s got a little bit of that character in him.”
Marlins fans respond to Bour. At no point was that more evident than last Friday, when Miami invited the baseball and softball teams from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the Feb. 14 school shooting in nearby Parkland, to Roger Dean Stadium.
The high school players swarmed Bour, who did his best to accommodate any request.
Bour appeared on live Snapchat posts with the baseball players. He gave away one of his gloves. He hosted an impromptu trivia contest, rewarding high schoolers who answer his questions correctly with bats.
“That’s the family of baseball,” Bour said. “We’re all here for each other. It doesn’t matter what level, we’re always going to take care of each other.”
Bour plans to visit one Douglas baseball practice later in the year.
“Not so much a media thing, more of a just kind of hanging out with the guys,” Bour said. “These guys, they’ve had enough media in their face. We’re going to go over, hang out, talk baseball and just enjoy the day. Be there for them.”
A cleanup hitter with power to all fields, the left-handed hitting Bour hit 25 homers and drove in 83 runs last season while hitting .289, all career highs, despite missing more than a month because of an oblique strain. Among returning Marlins, only catcher J.T. Realmuto enjoyed anything close to similar production.
On Monday, a few hours before Bour recorded his first Grapefruit League hit of the year by punching a single though the left side of an infield shifted toward his pull side, Mattingly reasserted his belief that Bour is player capable of hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs a season, doing so with a high average and limited number of strikeouts.
Achieving those levels, or even repeating last year’s production, might not come easily without the likes of Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich hitting around him. Pitchers may simply elect to avoid Bour and take their chances with the likes of Martin Prado, Cameron Maybin or Derek Dietrich.
“It’s going to be a different lineup,” Bour said. “I might see different pitches. It’s a matter of coming in, staying with my approach, understanding what the pitchers are going to do and doing what I can against them.”