SBD/April 5, 2012/MLB Season Preview

Pregame Festivities For Marlins' Home Opener Include Sounds Of Miami, Ali Appearance

Ali takes part in ceremonial first pitch during last night's pregame festivities
The Marlins hosted their first regular-season game at the new Marlins Park last night, and the team “greeted a fan-filled stadium ... with a spectacular pre-game show that began with footage of the city from a speedboat slicing through waterways and ended with fireworks, a flyover of fighter jets and a guest appearance by boxing legend Muhammad Ali,” according to Spencer & Yanez of the MIAMI HERALD. Jose Feliciano sang the National Anthem and a “thunderous applause filled the stands.” The show “paid tribute to South Florida music with snippets of songs by a long list of artists,” and "high school and middle school students from across South Florida” performed prior to the first pitch. Players were “escorted onto the field by Copacabana-style showgirls” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/5). In Miami, Andre Fernandez writes a “distinct tropical feel continued during the pregame introductions as Marlins starters were escorted one at a time to the diamond by showgirls with colorful, feathery garb.” The national anthem was “followed by the traditional fly-over by fighter jets and more fireworks” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/5). The Latin theme was “unmistakable” as three hours before game time fans streaming toward the stadium were “serenaded by brassy soul and Latin favorites from the strolling Miami Street Band” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/5). In Chicago, Phil Rogers writes it was “quite the event.” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said, "Very unique, very different opening day” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/5).

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY: MLB.com’s Sanchez & Frisaro note Ali’s appearance at Marlins Park “was in the works for two months.” Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria said, "I wanted to give the fans the sense that we're doing special things here. At first I brought him in to see the players, and they were very happy. A total surprise for everybody." Ali passed the game ball to 3B Hanley Ramirez as “chants of ‘Ali, Ali, Ali’ erupted” (MLB.com, 4/5). Loria said of Ali, "He's still the most famous person on the face of the Earth” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/5). Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, defeated Sonny Liston in Miami Beach in '64 to win the heavyweight title for the first time. But the AP's Tim Reynolds wrote on his Twitter account, "Outside of Miami, do many people know Muhammad Ali's connection to this city?" Baseball writer Keith Law wrote, "The fans seem as puzzled by the inclusion of Muhammad Ali as I am" (TWITTER.com, 4/4). Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Victor Contreras writes you “couldn't help but feel sorry for Ali as he sat slumped riding in a cart, his hands shaking violently from Parkinson's disease.” He seemed “unaware of where he was or what he was doing as he dropped a ball into Hanley Ramirez's hand” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/5).
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