He has a World Series ring -- a ring he won with the Marlins. He has four consecutive gold gloves. More than anyone else he will be responsible for harnessing the exciting young pitching talent the team has stockpiled. He's improving as a batsman. He's a Marlin by choice, signing a free-agent contract with Florida at well below his market value. He was the first draft pick in team history. His return is a very real reminder that the Marlins are on the right track -- if not yet worthy of the World Series, then at least headed the right way.
Almost 80 years after John and Zada Schleucher founded a program to help Miami's poor, the Miami Rescue Mission is still serving "soup, soap, and salvation" to the city's lost souls. The mission has grown into a multifaceted facility featuring residential programs for men and women, a thrift store, an education center, and a companion operation in Broward County. Every day the mission's Men's Center on NW First Avenue serves a hot meal at both lunch and dinner to about 200 men, women, and children. The lunch, however, isn't free. Those who wish to eat must first attend a religious service in the mission's chapel. Although that may turn off some people, it makes others feel as though someone has helped the whole man rather than just filled his stomach. At least that's what Horace says as he eats a lunch of beans and rice, salad, cabbage, cookies, and chocolate milk. An ex-addict who has been in the Rescue Mission's residential program for a year, Horace adds optimistically that in three more months he'll be back on his feet, working as a long-distance truck driver. The Miami Rescue Mission helped make that possible when he had nowhere else to turn.

Best Vertically Challenged Basketball Player

A.J. Castro

Southwest Miami High School's boys basketball team, led by five-foot eight-inch point guard A.J. Castro, gave its win-starved fans much to cheer about this year. After decades of lackluster seasons, the Eagles squad tallied a 22-7 record, upsetting perennial powerhouses and reaching the county finals for Class 6A play. At one point the gutsy Cinderella team was ranked second in the state. At the heart of the dream season was the team's fast and slippery playmaker Castro, who frustrated many a taller opponent. On the court he is fearless, taking control with lightning-quick passes, nervy rebounds, and wicked three-point shots. And he has a knack for scoring when the team needs it most. During the Eagles' final regular-season game against their district rivals, the South Miami Cobras, Castro whooshed an arching three-pointer that won it for the Eagles as the clock ticked off its final second. The short guy was named to the first-string all-state team by the Florida Sportswriters Association, the McDonald's All-American Team, and the county all-star roster. Not bad for a scrappy Cuban kid from the burbs. He's a senior now, and when he accepts that scholarship to Cornell, as expected, the hoops around Westchester will never be the same.

Drag queens are like birthday cakes: layered and coated with thick frosting painstakingly applied to evoke strong reactions. The cake most full of surprises in this town full of queens is Ivana, the shiny-lipped, bawdy broad from Buenos Aires. When she struts atop the bar at Cactus in white hot pants and go-go boots, be prepared for an onslaught of camel-toe jokes from a girl who is just about ready to bust out of her own outfit. Try as she might to be classy, whiskey-voiced Ivana can't help it. If her lip-synching to saccharine pop is a little off, her sense of timing when she emcees her shows in Spanish is fierce. Watch her sparks fly Friday nights at Ozone and Saturday nights with Adora at Cactus.
There is something pleasantly dreamlike and unreal about Black Point Marina. It's an improbable mix of natural and human construction. On some sea charts the area is known as "the featherbeds." Dog walkers have been known to meet crocodiles on Black Point's walkways. To the south looms the region's only peak, Mount Trashmore. At the marina's dockside restaurant and bar, the Pirate's Den, the beer runs cold, the food is passable, and customers can down pitchers while watching herons fish. A 1.5-mile jetty path that juts into the bay is the perfect place for a stroll afterward. Couples spread blankets on the grass. Families picnic and fish. Manmade Miami is rarely this peaceful.

Since 1965 Red Berry has been teaching youngsters to pitch, catch, bat, and spit like a major leaguer. At various times he also has served as a coach for the University of Miami Hurricanes and a professional baseball scout. He likes to claim at least some of the credit for the careers of players who went on to play for teams such as the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, and Toronto Blue Jays. The secret to the decades-old formula? Teaching the kids proper player development, to be part of a team, and to have a good time. Summer camp begins in June. Sounds like fun, and if there's any truth to the Baseball World slogan, it is just that: "Home to America's happiest ballplayers."
Not only did our friends at WTVJ-TV (Channel 6) abandon South Florida's first television studio -- conveniently located across from the federal courthouse in downtown Miami -- to better bring us gripping developments from Plantation City Hall, and not only did they leave a physical and metaphorical black hole downtown, they also desecrated the structural shell they left behind. On their last day in Miami, staffers pulled out markers and paint and graffittied their historic studio's walls. There's symbolism here, none of it particularly appreciated.

Dolphins wide receiver O.J. McDuffie knows you can't play good unless you feel good. And you can't possibly feel good unless you ... look good. That's why, before a big home game against rival Buffalo, McDuffie petitioned head coach Dave Wannstedt to toss out the garish green pants the team had worn at home for the past three seasons in favor of the white pants and matching white shirts the team wore in its glory days. Wannstedt allowed the change, and the Fins looked positively resplendent in a 22-13 win. "Whatever it takes," said a victorious Wannstedt afterward, referring not to the gridiron war but to the wardrobe.
Who will ever forget those images of well-dressed young men with neatly cropped hair pounding on the doors of the Miami-Dade County Elections Department during the height of the presidential recount? And when a few of them erroneously thought county Democratic Party chairman Joe Geller was trying to steal ballots, they pounced on him like he was the last piece of Brie at a wine-and-cheese social. Initially television viewers must have thought the hooligans were local citizens, but anyone living in Miami knew right away this wasn't a hometown horde. For one thing there wasn't a single guayabera in the crowd. Sure enough it turned out this rabble was imported from out of state, many of them the aides to Republican congressmen from around the nation. Eventually the roving band of Republican thugs was forced to disperse, but not before they caused Miami-Dade County to cancel its recount and ensure a victory for George W. Bush.
Um, $145 billion. Yeah, that's with a b. That's how much this husband-and-wife team won for their clients in July 2000. The astounding award was the culmination of a seven-year legal battle against the nation's tobacco industry, and it all played out in the Miami courtroom of Judge Robert Kaye. The Rosenblatts' argument was deceptively simple: "My key strategy was to show that these people have knowingly sold ... a product they 100 percent knew will kill a certain number of their customers. And that they didn't give a damn," Stanley told the National Law Journal. The jury bought it. The victory for their estimated 500,000 clients is all the more impressive in light of the fact that these two local advocates faced a veritable army of high-priced attorneys hired by the tobacco giants. Faced them down and kicked their butts.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®