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Fans in high spirits at Marlins’ spring training

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Visiting Jupiter is a great way to get close to the players and the game

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Floridians are lucky. Not just because of the lovely weather, beach and surfing, but also because of spring training baseball. Marlins fans are even luckier because their team trains just 90 miles to the north in Jupiter.

I have been fortunate to go to spring training four out of the last five years and have gotten to see a lot of the Marlins, even before I began here at Fish Stripes. This year, I asked a few Marlins fans I met at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter about why they come to spring training and what they hoped for the team in the upcoming season.


Barbara Antonetti, Jupiter

Favorite Marlin:

“Christian Yelich.”

Why do you come to Spring Training (ST)?

“It’s fun getting autographs and talking to {the players} and seeing everything close up. It’s hard to get to Miami.”

Expectations for 2017:

“I wish they’d get {a new owner} who cares and is going to spend the money to make {winning} happen.”

Tina and Avery Reeder, Miami

Favorite Marlin:

Tina: “Jose Fernandez was our absolute favorite so we’re struggling this year. “

Avery: “We’re Yelich fans, too. We’ve seen Yelich since the start. We also love “Hechy” (Adeiny Hechavarria) and Dee Gordon.”

Why do you come to ST?

“We usually try to hit one spring training game. We have season tickets at Marlins Park, but we like to come up here once at least.”

Favorite part of ST?

“The weather’s always nice so we love being outside. We picked a perfect day for that!”

Luke Simpson, Jupiter (but on spring break from Florida State)

Favorite Marlin:

“It was José; now it’s probably Justin Bour.”

Why come to ST?

“I love the Marlins. I like all the young players they have too, so it’s fun to watch all the prospects later in the games.”

Expectations for 2017? “I think their lineup is going to be good, and if the rotation can produce decently, I think they can make a run for the wild card. I don’t think they’re going to get the East, but maybe the wild card if their pitching holds up.”

Claudia D. and Jesse Goldberg, from the area

Favorite Marlin:

Claudia: “{Giancarlo} Stanton.”

Jesse: “Jeff Conine is still my favorite player.”

Why do you come to ST?

Claudia: “I just love baseball, and I work for a rival team, so every day off from work I have, I just love coming to watch the Marlins.”

Jesse: “I was born and raised in South Florida, and I love the Marlins. This was the first opportunity I’ve gotten this spring training to come and see the team and how they’re doing. I try to come every year.”

Expectations for this season?

Jesse says “naaah”, and Claudia laughs and says, “When you’re used to being a Marlins fan, you don’t have expectations. That way, at the end of the season, if they do end up performing well, you’re very happy.” Jesse: “Absolutely.”

Favorite part of ST?

Jesse: “I think it’s the small, hometown feel of it. Everyone can talk to the players much more easily; there’s less going on. It’s more about the love of the game. You get to actually experience the players progressing, moving on, the young players with potential getting better, maybe getting called up sooner rather than later. Obviously wins and losses don’t matter as much. It’s all about the progression of the players and the team as a whole.”

Claudia: “I agree. I like the closeness of it. It’s so much more fun in this tiny atmosphere, with all the fans. I also enjoy watching all the minor league players get a chance to do their thing.”

Mike Brown, Wellington

Favorite Marlin:

“Yelich.”

Expectations?

“Better than last season I think. They’re looking good so far in Spring Training which is good.”

Why do you come to ST?

“I live close, and you get closer to the game in Spring Training than you do at the regular stadium.”

Patrick Cannan, Palm Beach Gardens (usher at Roger Dean Stadium)

What do you like about being an usher at ST?

“I like being up there among the fans, hearing them talk back and forth, plus you get to watch the game!”

Expectations for 2017:

“The pitchers are the only question mark I think. Today, {Justin} Nicolino pitched very well for three innings. He gave up a couple hits but no runs. But for the past several weeks it seems even the “A” pitchers have given up a lot of hits, so they might need help on the pitching staff. But the hitters, some of them are in the World Baseball Classic so they’re not here, and it’s too bad {we don’t get to see them}…but the ones here have been doing a lot.”

Favorite Marlin:

“Jose Fernandez.”

Favorite part of ST?

“Just the fact that you’re so much closer to the players. You can hear them talking back and forth, and that’s the main experience of being at Spring Training for me, being up close and personal.”

Xavier Quiñones, 9 years old, Reading, PA

Favorite Marlin:

“I don’t know, they’re all good!”

Expectations for 2017:

“That they’re going to be good. First place!”

Favorite part of ST?

“This is my first time at Spring Training, so it’s getting to talk to the players. I got a ball after the game.

Darla Toner, Stuart

Favorite Marlin:

Doesn’t really have one.

Favorite part of ST:

“Just hanging out, having a great day and watching the guys play ball.”

Expectations:

“To win. First place, of course!”


There was consensus on a few things. Spring training is a great time to get up close and personal with your favorite team and players. You can interact with them much more easily than during the season. (Having been to a few of the Spring training complexes around the state, I can say the Marlins are one of the best teams at interacting with the fans. Many sign autographs before, during and after the game, and are freely talking to them as they do.)

It’s also great to see the talent coming up the pipeline. Doing it while the weather is sunny but not yet too hot makes for a great atmosphere. And José Fernàndez is already sorely missed.

They also seem to think pitching will be key to any possible playoff run. Perhaps this aspect is why the expectations for the team in 2017 differ from “Naaah/No expectations” to “First place!”

There’s still a week left to catch some games, and I highly recommend you do. The regular season starts April 3.