30 Seasons on City Island: Cliff Floyd

This content was originally found in Issue No. 14 of this year’s Senators Program

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Bobblehead reveal and HOF Induction

The last decade has seen the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Lucas Giolito come through Harrisburg with the anticipation and pedigree of an elite prospect. You’ll forgive Senators’ fans if the sight of the next great Major League superstar playing on City Island has become old hat. But back in 1993, Harrisburg hadn’t yet been exposed to a player with unlimited potential and promise. Great players had suited up for the Senators before then, but none came with the expectations and hype of Cliff Floyd.

Floyd first appeared on many scouts’ radar during his high school athletic career at Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It was there that Floyd became a legitimate three-sport star in baseball, football, and basketball. Despite leading his hoops squad to the Class AA sectional finals, baseball was the sport that Floyd excelled at above all others.

Floyd looked like a man among the boys across the high school diamonds around the Windy City. Even though he was naturally gifted with the bat, Floyd and his father honed his line-drive swing until it drew comparisons to Willie McCovey and Darryl Strawberry. During the final two years of his high school career, Floyd hit .508 and drove in 130 runs while being heavily recruited by traditional powerhouses Arizona State University and Stanford among others. But after the Montreal Expos drafted Floyd with the 14th pick in the 1st round of the 1991 Major League Baseball draft, Floyd made the easy decision to sign and head to the Gulf Coast League to begin his professional career.

It appeared that Floyd would start 1993 in High-A West Palm Beach, but after a blistering spring training he earned a promotion to begin the season in Harrisburg. Despite playing mostly in the outfield the previous season, Floyd was moved to first base for the Senators when parts of City Island were flooded in the early spring. The Expos’ brass didn’t want to send Floyd out to a damp and marshy left field every day so instead they instructed manager Jim Tracy to play their top prospect at first base.

At 20 years old, Floyd was the youngest player in the Eastern League but that didn’t affect the run producer in the middle of the Senators’ lineup. He terrorized opposing pitchers the first time around the circuit and kept making adjustments even after teams developed scouting reports on him. By late July, Floyd had led that 1993 squad to the best record in baseball and a commanding lead in the standings. In just 101 games, Floyd had driven in 101 runs and homered 26 times while batting .329. Dominating the league as he was doing proved his time in Harrisburg was over; Floyd was promoted to the Class AAA Ottawa Lynx. Based on his tremendous year, Cliff was named the Eastern League MVP and Minor League Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

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Quotables

“Cliff Floyd is one of the few five-tool players in baseball. There’s not much he can’t do on the field.” – – Hall of Famer Mike Piazza

“Besides all the ability, he has the quality that the more pressure is on, the better he likes it.” – – 1993 Senators’ manager Jim Tracy

“I enjoy the spotlight. I enjoy it when people see what I’m doing, and see me busting my butt out there.” – – Cliff Floyd

“Not too many parks can contain this guy.” – – former Mets’ GM Steve Phillips

“Cliff seeks out ways to improve, and he’s willing to experiment. He’s not the sort of player who stands pat once things are going well. He challenges himself to do better every time he steps on the field.” – – minor league manager Lorenzo Bundy

“I’m always trying to get my mind at peace. I know I hit my best when everything is chill.” – – Floyd

“You’re talking about an elite athlete who hits the ball as hard on a line as anybody.” – – Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski

“What I’ve seen from him as a hitter is that now he not only has the ability to hit a ball 500 feet, but he’s learned to change his swing with the count. He’s thinking with the pitcher. He’s a smarter hitter. He can hit for power and average.” – – former teammate Al Leiter

“I know that I may not always get a hit or may not always catch the ball, but I’m going to damn sure try.” – – Floyd

Career Achievements

  • Chicago Tribune`s 1991 Athlete of the Year
  • 1st Round selection (14th overall) by Montreal Expos in 1991 draft
  • 1993 Eastern League MVP and USA Today Minor League Player of the Year
  • Fifth in 1994 NL Rookie of the Year voting
  • World Series champion as member of 1997 Florida Marlins
  • National League All-Star in 2001
  • .278 career batting average
  • 233 Major League home runs

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