Marlins Park a hit at FanFest

MIAMI — A taste of what’s to come was offered on Saturday at Marlins Park.

The first ever Jiffy Lube Marlins FanFest at the new ballpark was packed with fans, enthusiasm and excitement. Fans pack into Marlins Park

In 32 days, the Miami Marlins will play host to the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in the grand opening of the 2012 season.

The new home for the new look Marlins promises to be one of the nicest ballparks in the game.

FanFest officially opened at 11 a.m. on Saturday, but fans — many wearing the new gear — were filing into the retractable-roof stadium around 9 a.m.

At 10 a.m., individual game tickets, except for Opening Night, went on sale at the box offices and on www.marlins.com.

After 19 years as the Florida Marlins, playing in a football stadium, the new Marlins home was everything advertised. With a capacity of 37,000, it is intimate. The concourses and concession stands were packed. Fans were able to walk around the new building, exploring sections as well as season-ticket options.

“This is all for you,” team president David Samson said at a town-hall style meeting. “Come April 4, you will see a new team.”

The Marlins have put together what they believe is a playoff-caliber club.

” Hopefully, we will make it happen in 2012,” new manager Ozzie Guillen told the fans.

Jose Feliciano will sing the Star-Spangled Banner on April 4. But the team has yet to say who will throw out the first pitch. Samson did say who wouldn’t — Jeff Conine, a.k.a., Mr. Marlin.

“It’s a surprise,” Samson said. “It’s not Conine.”

Saturday also was a select-a-seat day for those interested in purchasing season tickets. Already, about 15,000 season tickets have been sold.

The best way to secure a seat for Opening Night is to purchase a season plan.

During a question-answer session, a fan asked if the Marlins would consider retiring Jeff Conine’s number. He wore Nos. 18 and 19 while with the club.

No Marlins’ number is retired. But Samson didn’t rule the team considering retiring numbers.

“We will keep that under advisement,” Samson said.

Guillen, meanwhile, gave more clarity to the rotation. As expected, he told the fans, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle will be the Nos 1 and 2 starters, respectively. He is tentatively going with Ricky Nolasco in the No. 3 spot.

The fourth and fifth slots are expected to be between Carlos Zambrano and Anibal Sanchez, who won’t pitch in a scrimmage on Sunday due to soreness behind his right shoulder. It’s not considered serious.

Jose Reyes was asked about the transition of going from the Mets to the Marlins.

“I dont worry about the New York Mets right now,” said Reyes, to the cheers of the fans. “I am excited about this new family.”

Another fan asked about Chris Coghlan, and if the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, will make the club.

“We will have to wait and see how the team shapes up,” Guillen said. “The opportunity is going to be here.  The coaching staff and I can care less about what happened in the past.”

A number of questions during a town hall-style meeting were for Giancarlo Stanton, who prefers his birth given name instead of Mike.

One fan asked if Stanton would sign her arm, and follow her on Twitter. The 22-year-old slugger said yes to both.

Who is faster, Reyes or Emilio Bonifacio? Reyes raised his hand and pointed to Bonifacio. Reyes took the microphone and said, “Bonifacio.” But Bonifacio responded, “Reyes.”

New closer Heath Bell made it clear what he hopes his legacy is with the ballclub.

” I want to be the best Marlins closer this franchise has ever seen,” Bell said.

Joe Frisaro

 

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