Miami Marlins catcher and 13-year MLB veteran Francisco Cervelli announced Saturday on his personal Instagram page that he is retiring from professional baseball after his latest bout with concussions.
Included in one of his posts is a two-minute, 30-second video with highlights from his big-league career, which included stints with the New York Yankees (2008-2014), Pittsburgh Pirates (2015-2019), Atlanta Braves (2019) and Marlins (2020). The Yankees signed him as an international free agent in 2002.
“Today, I retire happy and fully satisfied, because I gave my heart and soul to this wonderful game,” Cervelli wrote. “I am retiring because the time has come to put my health before my career. For a long time, I put baseball first, through countless concussions and injuries, because this game was my life; my whole world. But it’s clear to me now that my future holds so much more. For the first time in a long time, I know my health and wellness needs to be the leadoff. It’s time.”
The Marlins signed Cervelli, 34, this offseason with the hopes he would be a veteran presence in a youth-laden clubhouse that was looking to surprise teams this year.
He produced on the field, hitting .245 with three home runs and seven RBI while helping a young pitching staff settle in during this 60-game, pandemic-shortened season.
But on Aug. 23, he landed on the injured list with a concussion, marking the seventh time in 10 years that he was sidelined due to a concussion or concussion-related symptoms.
“I told Francisco I want him to be healthy, but I want him to have a great life,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said in early September, a few days before the team moved Cervelli to the 60-day IL and effectively ended his season. “He’s already had a great career and you want him to have a great life after baseball. He can still give to it, so obviously I sound probably fairly negative, but we want him to be healthy. That’s the main thing with him and all our guys, but, obviously, I think we’ve all seen the danger of the concussion and brain injuries, and what happens to guys later on in life and what the damage can be. And it’s one of the things that we definitely don’t want for Francisco.”
His presence was invaluable for the Marlins as they went through their week-long quarantine following the COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in 18 players testing positive.
He admitted he was scared but didn’t let that show.
“It was tough for me,” Cervelli said then. “You can’t put me in a cage, but I have to behave myself, especially with the younger guys. If you’re a veteran or you’re a leader, they’re going to follow you. If you have a bad attitude, they’re going to do the same thing. I’m trying to be myself and be as positive as possible and remind them that this isn’t how the big leagues look. The big leagues are something else, something different than this. This year is very particular. I want to show them how it is to be in the big leagues. It’s the sky. It’s heaven. Right now, it’s a little uncomfortable, but we’re just here like kids playing baseball.”
Cervelli kept that youthful mindset throughout his entire career. He remained with the team and in the dugout during home games after going on the IL. He still had a job to do and teammates to support.
“Baseball is my life,” Cervelli said earlier in the season. “I try to play like this is the last day of my career. It’s got to be fun. The way the season’s going, sometimes it’s not fun. So we have to just keep smiling, screaming, doing things to make it fun because baseball is supposed to be that. We can have fun even with all the chaos and everything and try to enjoy it no matter what happened.”
Cervelli’s full farewell message:
“Today, I want to share the difficult decision I’ve made to end my career as a professional baseball player.
I feel it’s important to share this with you, the fans, because your support throughout my 18-year long career has meant so much – you helped make my journey possible.
During my career, I encountered injuries and made some bad decisions. But, I also learned so much. This game has brought me endless joy and happiness. I’ve received incredible support by so many, including countless teammates – my brothers in baseball – that I will carry in my heart forever. I also hold great pride in knowing that I strived to constantly make the impossible possible.
My advice? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dreams. If I did it, you can do it too. Today, I retire happy and fully satisfied, because I gave my heart and soul to this wonderful game. I am retiring because the time has come to put my health before my career. For a long time, I put baseball first, through countless concussions and injuries, because this game was my life; my whole world. But it’s clear to me now that my future holds so much more. For the first time in a long time, I know my health and wellness needs to be the leadoff. It’s time.
My journey in this game would be nothing without the exceptional people that have supported me along the way, personally and professionally. I thank God and my family for their unconditional love and support. To the Yankees, Pirates, Braves, Marlins, the MLB teams that gave a young kid from Venezuela a chance at this game, I am eternally grateful. To my coaches and teammates (too many to name) and my agent, thank you for pushing me to be the best ballplayer I could be. Lastly, to the fans… the Cisco Kid is nothing without you. Thank you for everything.
I will never forget all that this game has taught me. I wouldn’t trade the blood, sweat and tears for anything in the world. This game will always be my greatest love, because… well, THAT’S AMORE!”