Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco has pitched in front of big crowds before, but nothing compared to the energy he felt in October as a spectator at a soccer match in Barcelona.
“Real Madrid versus Barcelona,” Nolasco recalled Wednesday. “There was like 99,000 people. I’ve never seen a crowd so into it.”
Nolasco said he and teammate Giancarlo Stanton sat in “pretty good seats” because they attended the game with someone — soon-to-be-fired Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen — who had connections with one of the teams.
“He knows everybody there,” Nolasco said of Guillen. “We met the president of the soccer team.”
Nolasco and Stanton had already made plans for their own European vacation. After touring London, Amsterdam and Paris, they hooked up with Guillen and his wife, who started their own vacation in Spain a day after the season ended.
The Marlins fired Guillen on Oct. 23, the day he returned to Miami from Spain and just two days after he had dinner in Madrid with his two players.
Nolasco and Stanton weren’t happy about the move. They got angrier in November when the team traded Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and three other players to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Now, with the Marlins opening their spring training camp this week, both players are doing their best to keep their offseason emotions in check and focus on the season.
“I’m just moving forward,’’ said Nolasco, whose agent in December expressed his client’s desire to be traded.