Singing, playing together as one

MIAMI — Togetherness just might be the formula that brings out the best in a young, talented Marlins squad.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez has repeatedly stated that championships are won in the clubhouse. The players have bought into that, and it is reflected in how they get along.

When John Buck hit his grand slam on Opening Night, the entire team sprang out of the dugout in a way you see in the postseason not the first game of the season. That prompted a curtain call, which Buck granted to a standing ovation.

There is a sense in the clubhouse this year that the chemistry is different. Not that it was missing before, but it clearly is there now.

Before Buck’s home run, John Baker (who is on the disabled list) predicted the shot to Brett Hayes. Baker, who was holding a cup of water, said to Hayes, “If he hits a home run right now, I can throw this water on you.”

Once the ball cleared the wall in right-center, Baker turned to Hayes, who closed his eyes and stood still, as the water splashed his face.

Well, before the season opener, the players were coming together as a unit.

In Spring Training, there were four or five team meetings, all called by the players. As a team, they talked about being accountable and bringing the necessary effort to make this a rewarding season. If a player has an issue with a teammate, they are to air it out together, and not snipe behind each other’s backs.

Towards the end of Spring Training, about 45 players ate dinner together at the Yard House in Palm Beach Gardens. Team dinners away from the clubhouse hadn’t occurred in recent years. And the players on the active roster invited several players who had already been sent down to the Minor Leagues, including Alex Sanabia, Matt Dominguez, Bryan Petersen, Sean West and Vinny Rottino.

The dinner bill was about $1,200, and it was broken down to about $24 per player.

A highlight at the end of Spring Training was “Clubhouse Karaoke” night at Roger Dean Stadium. Musical equipment was brought in, and team special assistants Jeff Conine, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez served as judges.

Basically, the players with the shortest amount of big league service time had to perform for the rest of the squad.

Chris Coghlan was a hit singing “Ice Ice Baby.” Mike Stanton sang some Harry Belafonte. And as a duet, Brett Hayes and Brad Davis did a moving version of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Baby.”

Whether team unity leads to more wins remains to be seen. But one thing is clear, the 2011 Marlins at playing as one.

Joe Frisaro

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