Welcome (bienvenido) to Miami Marlins baseball
MIAMI — Introducing the new Miami Marlins.
If it seems like the franchise has that new-car smell, it’s because it does. Everything around the franchise right now is fresh.
The franchise now has new colors, new logo and new uniforms. They’ve got a South Beach swag,and a style distinctly Miami.
Opening Night is upon us, and the Marlins are on the verge of receiving unprecedented attention and coverage.
The first pitch, to be thrown by Josh Johnson, is set for 7:05 p.m. ET when the Marlins take on the St. Louis Cardinals at Marlins Park.
Much has changed since the end of 2011, which closed the chapter on the Florida Marlins after 19 seasons of playing in relative obscurity at spacious Sun Life Stadium.
Despite winning World Series titles in 1997 and 2003, the team regularly played in front of sparse crowds. They’ve always had an image problem. No more.
Now, with their makeover complete, the team has a new look and new roster.
For many who don’t know much about the Marlins, their players or their history, here is a quick review of what to watch out for in 2012.
* Josh Johnson, the Opening Night starter, is a two-time All-Star who has never pitched on national television. Well, he did once, in the 2010 All-Star Game. But while playing for the Marlins, he has never pitched on national TV until tonight’s ESPN telecast.
A two-time All-Star, Johnson was born in Minnesota and grew up in Oklahoma. He played hockey as a kid in Minnesota. His favorite baseball player all-time is Kirby Puckett. Johnson’s older brother, Tyler, played baseball at the University of Oklahoma. Tyler’s college teammates included Greg Dobbs (now on the Marlins) and Jason Bartlett.
Johnson’s entrance song is Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness.”
The night before every game he pitches, Johnson has a pasta dinner.
Johnson is a right-hander who throws 97 mph. But he bats left handed. An avid golfer, he swings the clubs right-handed. Go figure.
* Jose Reyes is the Marlins new shortstop. I know, for many that will take a while to get used to. But with the new ballpark came new revenue streams. Reyes, a four-time All-Star with the Mets, in December signed a six-year, $106 million contract, the richest deal in Marlins history.
The addition of Reyes prompted the Marlins to switch Hanley Ramirez, a three-time All-Star shortstop, to third base. Reyes and Ramirez have become close friends over the past few months. During Spring Training, they regularly spent time away from the field together, often playing PlayStation’s MLB 12 game. Rather than both being the Marlins, Reyes often picks being the Red Sox, while Ramirez took the Phillies.
Reyes and Ramirez have kept with the colorful Marlins’ theme, and each has dyed his hair “red orange.” Boys will be boys.
* Lo viste mania has arrived in Miami. Like the uniforms, you’ll get used to it. Whenever a Miami player does something special — a big hit or big catch — you will see a player display two fingers to form a sideways V over one eye. The trend was created by Emilio Bonifacio. It started a year ago. But since the team lost 90 games, it was kept pretty quiet.
Now, lo viste is everywhere.
Lo viste is Spanish for “See that?” It’s become a catch phrase that has caught on inside the clubhouse.
Bonifacio had a bunch of lo viste t-shirts made, and distributed them to teammates, who will wear them while working out.
* Giancarlo, not Mike, Stanton will be batting cleanup. No, the Marlins don’t have a new right fielder. Their right fielder simply wishes to go by another name, which happens to be his real name. Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton is the full name of the 22-year-old outfielder, who has belted 56 career home runs in 250 MLB games.
Since childhood, Stanton went by Mike, because many struggled pronouncing Giancarlo. Some of his teammates still call him Mike. And he will still sign autographs as Mike. But when addressed before each at-bat, he will be called Giancarlo, which also is the name you will see on the scoreboard and on the name plate above his locker.
* Marlins Park’s 75-foot home run structure will be ready to go for Opening Night. The eye-grabbing display, located beyond the wall in left-center, will be activated each time a Marlins player hits a home run. There will be mechanical marlins spinning, flapping flamingos, and water splashing when in operation.
Omar Infante, Emilio Bonifacio and Edward Mujica have a friendly pool on which Marlin will hit the first home run. Infante picks Hanley Ramirez. Bonifacio has Logan Morrison and Mujica is going with Giancarlo Stanton.
* For fans attending the game tonight, the gates will open at 4 p.m. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 6:15 p.m. for a memorable pregame ceremony, which is being produced by Emilio Estefan. Jose Feliciano will sing the Star Spangled Banner.
– Joe Frisaro