Ask him about his future with the Marlins, and it seems as if he's waiting for the next strong breeze for an answer. "Either I'm here or I'm not," he says, though he admits an affinity for the Mets. "I can handle it in New York, not like Bobby Bonilla. I can go to New York and perform. I've been dealing with things like that my whole career."
Says Gooden, "Gary is actually a very shy, sensitive person. He might come across as a tough guy who doesn't let anything bother him. But I know he cares what people think about him."
A father at 17, a batting champion at 23 and a veteran of three big league teams at 24, Sheffield still appears remarkably young. He lived with Betty and his stepfather, Harold Jones, as recently as two years ago. On the night before he left for spring training this year, he sat on the edge of his mother's bed, and they talked until six in the morning about finding love and happiness. "You pray to God," Betty told her son, "and he will send you someone."
Sheffield has an option to buy the Miami penthouse, but he'll wait and see. Either he is here or he is not. "Seems like almost nobody in the building speaks English," he says with a smile. "They don't even know me."
After a game, late at night, he will sit alone and gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows: the tableaux of Biscayne Bay out one side and downtown Miami out the other. The world is quiet. "The lights of the buildings twinkling at night—man, it's beautiful," he says. "Just beautiful."