Samson set to run 50 miles for workers, charity

Samson set to run 50 miles for workers, charity

MIAMI -- Moving the Marlins out of Sun Life Stadium and into Marlins Park has kept team president David Samson on the run this offseason.

Being on the go is nothing new for the energetic team president. Along with the transition into a new building, Samson also handles the daily operations of the ballclub.

In his free time, Samson is an avid runner, recently completing the "Goofy Marathon" at Disney World. He ran the 26.2-mile race the day after taking part in a half-marathon, also in the Orlando area.

So Samson has never shied away from putting his stamina to the test. But never has he embarked on a running challenge that awaits him in a couple of months.

On April 27, Samson plans to go the extra mile in an effort to give back to the thousands of workers who have contributed to building the Marlins' 37,000-seat stadium in the Little Havana section of Miami. Samson is planning to run 50 miles to honor the stadium workers while raising more than $500,000 for 10 separate charities.

The ambitious run, from Pompano Beach to Marlins Park, will take about 11 hours, and Samson calculates he will trot into the ballpark in time for Miami's April 27 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"The idea started all the way back when construction first started," Samson said. "I was talking to workers and thinking of the 33-month schedule that was ahead of us. We always knew we were going to honor the workers at a game.

"I started thinking about how to combine honoring the workers who were building the ballpark and raising money for charity. I realized I wanted to do an ultra marathon. Instead of going out and doing a regular marathon, I thought to myself, 'Why not do 50 miles and raise $500,000 for charity?' That's how it started."

The Marlins' retractable-roof ballpark is 95 percent completed, and the project remains on time and on budget in anticipation of Opening Day. Construction will continue on a daily basis in anticipation of the Marlins' April 4 season opener against the Cardinals in Miami.

The D-backs will be in Miami for the first of four games on April 27, the night when more than 5,000 workers will be invited to take part in an on-field pregame ceremony. If all goes according to schedule, Samson will trot into the ballpark as the workers are being honored.

The ceremony will include the unveiling of a wall, with all the workers' names inscribed, that will be located at the entrance of the first-base ramp.

"We're honoring every worker," Samson said. "We're hoping several thousand will be on the field that Friday night against the D-backs."

Samson is no stranger to testing his physical limits. He's an established distance runner, having previously completed the New York City, Boston and Miami marathons.

In 2006, Samson gained national attention when he became the first active team president in any of the four major team sports -- baseball, football, basketball and hockey -- to complete the Ford Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii.

The grueling day in Hawaii required a 2.4-mile swim, followed by biking 112 miles and then running a full marathon. Samson completed the event in 15 hours and 36 minutes. In the process, he raised more than $250,000 for the Marlins Foundation, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and other local Hawaiian charities.

As accomplished a runner as Samson is, he's never gone more than the standard marathon distance, 26.2 miles, in one day.

"My longest training run will be 35 miles," Samson said. "So I'm not sure what's going to happen in the last 15 miles."

To help in his preparation, Samson has consulted with his friend, Dave McGillivray, the director of the Boston Marathon.

"I told him I wanted to combine all three of my current passions -- raising money for charity, running and Marlins Park," Samson said. "I told Dave my idea. He said it may not be the perfect year for you to do it, because of the work on the ballpark. I told him I had to do it this year and I wanted to do it on the day we honor the workers. He's been working with me ever since."

Samson will certainly have plenty of motivation along his route, which will be mostly running along A1A from Pompano Beach down into Miami-Dade County.

In Miami, Samson will wind along Biscayne Blvd., Brickell Blvd. and into Coral Gables before he finishes up at the ballpark in Little Havana. Accompanying him will be a support vehicle, doctors and security.

Samson won't be running alone, either. In every five-mile stretch, he will be joined by a representative from each of the 10 charities he is making contributions to.

"I wanted to cover charities that are passionate to me and personal to me," Samson said. "I came up with a list of 10 charities, and each one of them will receive at least $50,000."

Samson will be running for The ALS Recovery Fund, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer, Liga Contra en Cancer, The Miami Foundation-Miami Fellows Scholarships, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Jewish Federation of Broward County, Miami Children's Hospital and The University of Miami Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence.

Pledges can be made at www.marlins.com/SamsonRun. For more information or questions regarding donations, e-mail foundation@marlins.com or call 305-623-6497.

There promises to be a dramatic finish to Samson's long day, as he will be joined by a special guest for the final five miles.

Jeff Conine, the famed former Marlin and current club special assistant, will run the final stretch into the ballpark. Like Samson, Conine achieved Ironman status in Hawaii a few years back.

"Jeff is going to run with me," Samson said. "He and I will run together into the new ballpark.

"This has evolved into something greater than I thought. We're raising a lot of money for 10 charities."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.