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Offishial news, 3/22/21: Leading Off; watchable Marlins game; SimMLB stocks

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We’ve reached the quarter-pole of the 2021 Grapefruit League.

Photo by Nicole Cahill/Fish Stripes

Leading off with Leading Off

Marlins Park wasn’t packed but there was still a buzz in the air during team’s Leading Off event. 2,500 lucky fans were able to return to Marlins Park for the mini FanFest on Saturday for the first time in over a year.

Those who secured the special Field Pass for on-field activities were able to participate in walking the base paths, pitching in the bullpen, hitting in a batting cage, and playing catch on the field. Young Fish fans under 12 years old were also able to swing for the centerfield fences as ballpark team members tossed wiffle balls for a small-scale home run derby. All fans were invited to take a walk behind-the-scenes to see the clubhouse, indoor batting cages, and barbershop.

There were a variety of COVID-19 protocols around Marlins Park on Saturday that will also be used throughout the season, including mandatory facemasks, physical distancing, frequent cleanings of high touch areas, and streamlined experiences around the ballpark.

At the Leading Off event, almost all fans seemed to comply with facemask guidelines and physical distancing markings. Seats were also individually zip-tied to enforce distancing between pods. On the field, areas were clearly separated to ensure proper distancing and Marlins Park team members were readily available to enforce safety protocols and ensure they ran smoothly.

One thing that was not present during the event but will be used prior to games are one of the more interesting approaches to COVID-19 protocols: the Marlins will be using drones to disinfect seats in the ballpark. MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola shared the video below of the drone in action.

Overall, the health and safety measures were executed well and surely helped to instill confidence in fans who plan on returning to the ballpark for Opening Day on April 1. The limited capacity to begin the season is 25% and the 9,300 or so tickets for Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays have sold out.

Monday’s game preview

If you can pry yourself away from all of the men’s and women’s college basketball games, the Grapefruit League matchup between aces Sandy Alcantara and Jack Flaherty will be televised locally (yes, really!) on FOX Sports Florida at 1:05 p.m. ET. We’ll even have a game thread article for it here. The network confirmed last week that their rebrand into Bally Sports Florida takes effect just in time for Opening Day.

The main player to watch will be Jazz Chisholm Jr. who has the hardest-hit ball and the farthest-hit ball for the Marlins this spring (both were home runs).

Entering the final week of exhibition games, avoiding injuries should be the utmost priority. The Marlins have been very fortunate in that department thus far, creating “good problems” when it comes to narrowing down which of the 53 players remaining at major league camp will begin the regular season as members of the 26-man active roster.

Walk-off links

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