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Some Marlins playing dominos

And no, not setting them up and knocking them down, but the game.

Southwest Eighth Street and 15th Avenue, that's all you need to know to find Domino Park, a place filled with the ramblings and laughter of older, mostly Cuban men.

Most come looking for that small but satisfactory piece of their old life back home in Cuba. Last Friday, the men who came to Domino Park were joined by 10 members of the Florida Marlins baseball team.


The Marlins team is taking their show on the road, visiting communities and trying to generate some enthusiasm as spring training begins this week.

''This is what we have to do,'' explained Emmanuel Munoz, media relations representative for the Florida Marlins. ``We're trying to inject the spirit of baseball back into the community.''

So over the sound of the marble dominoes hitting the wooden tables, the chatter sometimes led to baseball.


''We've been hitting schools, hospitals and other venues,'' Munoz said. ``But being such an iconic venue, Domino Park is a must-stop for us. This is the bulk of our fan base.''

And rightly so, Clodoardo Barcia, 80, has been following the Florida Marlins since their beginning in 1994.

''My life is baseball. I rarely miss a game,'' Barcia said, pointing to writing on his beige shirt that reads El Abuelo De Los Marlins (The Marlins' Grandfather).


As attractive as the park and its history is, caution is needed if you visit. If you're not walking in to play dominoes, checkers or if you don't speak Spanish, you may find your reception lukewarm at best.

On Feb. 8, the reception was different. When you mix baseball and dominoes, all are welcome.

For lovers of dominoes and fans of baseball, Domino Park was the place to be on Friday. ''I'm here for the ride,'' said pitcher Daniel Barrone. He, along with other players such as No. 13 Jose Castillo and No. 36 Anibal Sanchez, were all receiving lessons on how to play dominoes -- Cuban-style -- from Marlins Grandfather Barcia.


Pedro Duran believes this is just the beginning of the relationship between Domino Park and Marlins baseball.

''Play a little domino and then go watch baseball at new stadium,'' Duran said.

He said he wanted to continue to do the two things he knows best: play dominoes and talk baseball.


Doubtless, the support of the heart of Little Havana moved closer to being guaranteed.

I never had any doubt that the Marlins could win the heart of Little Havana.  But what I'm little concerned about, assuming you can play dominos for money, is whether Barrone, Castillo and Anibal had to walk home wearing only their underwear.  Hopefully the gentlemen of Domino Park took it easy on them.