Florida Marlins MLB baseball

The Florida Marlins, a relatively new team in MLB history, arrived in Miami in 1993 after much negotiation between H. Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Joe Robbie Stadium (JRS), the players, and MLB officials. After Huizenga’s purchase of the JRS (now the Dolphin Stadium), he continued to pursue the expansion of the National League into Florida. Two exhibition games were played for 124,000 fans between the NY Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles in March 1991, while renovations of the JRS and discussions continued on bringing MLB to Florida. Once the Marlins baseball franchise was finally approved, they held their first tryout camp in 1992 in Delray Beach, with tickets going on sale in March of that year to kick off the season. Charlie Hough, one of their first free agents, threw the first pitch at the opener on April 5, 1993, and Benito Santiago scored the first home run for a sellout crowd of 42,334. By October of their inaugural season, the Marlins had brought in a record attendance of over three million, and in March 1994, they opened a new spring training camp, complete with fireworks and a space shuttle launch, at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.

Fans saw the Florida Marlins go all the way to victory in Game 7 of the World Series, to take the championship on October 26, 1997. The following March, the banner was raised at the newly named Pro Player Stadium and players’ rings were presented in April. While John Boles became manager, Huizenga claimed unsubstantiated losses, traded many of their best players, and went on to sell the team to John W. Henry, early in 1999. The downhill slide had begun, and by 2002, their record was a dismal one, having lost their fifth straight season and attendance dropping to an all-time low of just over 10,000. In February 2002 the Marlins were sold again, this time to Jeffrey Loria, who named David Samson as President of the team. Through star players such as Castillo and Burnett, both Gold Glove award winners for several consecutive years, and Lowell, the Silver Slugger award winner, they gradually managed to recover some of their previous glory.

Under the outstanding management of Jack McKeon, 2003 was a banner year again for the Marlins. Having clinched the Division Series at Pro Player Stadium for a crowd of slightly over 130,000, they went on to take the World Series Championship from the New York Yankees in Game 6. Josh Beckett pitched a complete shut out and was named MVP of the year. Unfortunately, the unpredictable weather in Florida played havoc with the games in 2004, and along with hurricanes, the loss of three key players on the team added to their decline again. 2005 saw the signing of first baseman Carlos Delgado to the tune of $52 million, to be paid over four years, the highest ever paid in baseball franchise history. In the same year, McKeon retired and Girardi, former bench coach of the Yankees, was brought in as replacement to manage the Marlins. Joe Girardi managed to bring the team into Wild Card position until September 2006, something no one expected would happen. As a result, he was awarded National League Manager of the Year, but he was fired in October and replaced by their current manager, Fredi Gonzalez. Through the years, the Marlins have had several outstanding rookie players including shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, all-star 2nd baseman, who both received Rookie of the Year Awards in 2006.
The Marlins are scheduled to leave Dolphin Stadium in 2010 when their lease expires. Where they will eventually relocate is an unresolved issue, with various proposals still being discussed. It is imperative that they find a new location; with baseball attendance dropping each year, the search has been ongoing. Possible locations have been considered including the Orioles spring training camp, the National Car Rental Center, Pompano Park Racetrack, Bicentennial Park, and even downtown Fort Lauderdale. Out of state locations were also looked at including Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, and San Antonio, Texas, but all proposals seem to have met opposition and failed for one reason or another. Negotiations for a facility adjacent to the Orange Bowl have apparently fallen through, as well, while Hialeah, which the Marlins seem to favor, and Pompano remain under consideration, but no final decision has been made.

Once the location is agreed upon, the stadium will be designed by architect HOK Sport, at an estimated cost of $420 million. It will accommodate 38,000 people and have a grass surface and a retractable dome, an essential feature that is not present in the Dolphin Stadium. About half the funding will come from the city of Miami and Dade County, a possible $30 million or more from the state of Florida, and the rest to come from the Marlins. Once built, the Marlins will receive all revenue from the 4,600 parking spaces and the concessions, as well as naming rights, in exchange for the signing of a long-term lease. This would resolve the issue they have had with Huizenga, who has control of these proceeds at Dolphin Stadium.

While negotiations continue between city, county, and state officials, the Marlins manager, Fredi Gonzalez, along with lefty pitcher, Scott Olsen, hosted their “Select a Seat” event in December 2006, to promote the sale of next season’s ticket packages. Loria, in his fifth year as owner of the team, has aggressively pursued the need for their own stadium. In view of the fact that it takes at least three years to build such a facility, the Marlins are hopeful that funding will be obtained and agreement reached so that construction can begin early in 2007. Florida fans are perhaps just as eager to see their team play and win in a new stadium, wherever it may be.

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