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Marlins ready to step onto the national stage

Marlins ready to step onto the national stage

Marlins ready to step onto the national stage
MIAMI -- When you're playing in a fashionably trendy new ballpark, you want to look the part.

Hanley Ramirez certainly did on Tuesday afternoon.

Dressed in a crisp black suit and tie, the third baseman addressed the media before the Marlins' final workout leading into Wednesday's Opening Night game against the Cardinals.

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"I was filming a movie today," said Ramirez, all smiles and loose. "I look pretty good, huh? I look like a businessman. When you're wearing a suit and tie, people give you a different look."

The same can be said about the Marlins as a franchise as they move into their new home.

Marlins Park -- part flashy, mostly colorful and 100 percent Miami -- has elevated the franchise to high-end status.

The new building will be on display in Wednesday's opener, as the game against the defending World Series champions will be televised nationally on ESPN. If a Marlin hits a home run, the ballpark's 75-foot homer feature will be triggered into action. The display, beyond the wall in left-center, will spin and make a big splash every time a Miami player goes deep.

The mandate of team owner Jeffrey Loria when building the stadium was to make it represent Miami. And everything in the retractable-roof building, which holds 37,442, does. In addition to the home run feature, there is lime-green padding on the walls and two 450-gallon fish tanks embedded into the wall behind home plate. There are also images of famous baseball moments as well as a bobblehead museum.

"It just feels bright. It feels energetic to me," catcher John Buck said. "In all of those other parks, you get kind of the same routine park. They're awesome, being traditional, but this gives you that kind of in your face, South Florida, Miami feel to it.

"That's kind of what Jeffrey was aiming for. As a ballplayer, being in other parks and coming into this one, he's captured it."

The Marlins are looking to take their franchise to the next level. With a payroll exceeding $100 million, a club mark, their expectations are to compete in October and attract big crowds all along the way.

Since the start of Spring Training, the club has been a big hit with the media.

The reason Ramirez and some of his teammates were in suits on Tuesday was to do some filming for Showtime, which has made the Marlins its spotlight team in the reality series "The Franchise."

When noted to Ramirez that ESPN was televising Opening Night, he joked, "Seriously, we're on ESPN? That's going to be our first time or second time."

Ramirez won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2006, and seldom did he play before a national TV audience. And like many of his teammates, including Opening Night starter Josh Johnson, he endured years of playing in relative obscurity at Sun Life Stadium.

After 19 years of sharing a spacious stadium with the Miami Dolphins, the Marlins now are playing in a baseball-friendly park. And thanks to the roof, the days of rain delays and rainouts are over.

Johnson went through years of heading to Sun Life Stadium ready to pitch but unsure if the weather would permit.

"That's just Florida and how crazy the weather can be," Johnson said. "It can be raining in the parking lot and not on the field, or raining inside the stadium and not in the parking lot. You have to prepare yourself to pitch at 7:05 or 7:10, whenever it is."

In the climate-controlled new ballpark, games will start on time. And on those excessively hot South Florida days, the roof will be closed.

"Like I've said, everything all around is going to be different," Ramirez said. "I think there is a lot of energy and a lot of good things are around us. It's good for our organization. I've been around here for six, seven years. This is the year that everybody has been looking for and waiting for. Me, personally, I'm happy from the bottom of my heart."

As tuneups for facing the Cardinals on Wednesday, the Marlins played exhibitions with the Yankees on Sunday and Monday.

All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, used to playing in the spotlight while with the Mets, feels that the Marlins already are right at home.

"The more we play in this ballpark, the more comfortable you're going to feel," Reyes said. "I don't think it's going to take any time. I think we feel comfortable here as a team. We are looking forward to coming here and playing."

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.

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