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Fans savor local flavor at Marlins Park

Fans savor local flavor at Marlins Park

Fans savor local flavor at Marlins Park
MIAMI -- A new Miami sound machine rocked the stadium on Wednesday night in South Florida. The locals enjoyed the familiar flavor, and the visitors had a chance to experience a taste of Miami.

Fans were treated to a pregame spectacular on the field presented by Grammy Award winning producer Emilio Estefan and an appearance by Muhammad Ali, who delivered the game ball.

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"This stadium encompasses Miami," said Carolina Perrina de Diego, the Marlins' director of business communications. "From the aquarium with tropical fish behind home plate to the home run sculpture and The Clevelander, [which] gives us a little bit of South Beach in the heart of Little Havana, this is Miami."

Many Marlins fans flocked to the stadium four hours before the gates opened and wandered around the West Plaza. Alfredo Chachor, who lives 10 blocks from the stadium, wanted to get a sneak peek before the rush of the crowd. He also wanted to show off his new Hanley Ramirez jersey.

"This was an easy walk and an easy decision," Chachor, 53, said. "We have to come support this. This is a great gift to the community. Miami needed this. This community loves baseball."

This community also loves music. Sounds of Latin music blared outside the stadium, and rhythmic beats could be heard on the inside.

The food also proved to be a fan favorite. In addition to the standard baseball fare, Marlins Park offered such local favorites as pork sandwiches, Cuban sandwiches and ceviche.

The Bobblehead Museum and the mechanized home run sculpture in center field also kept the fans curious.

What's more, orange hats, jerseys and T-shirts with the new Marlins logo were everywhere. Fans also sported the "classic" teal-and-black Marlins gear.

"I like the orange. It makes sense," said Julie Kulzek, 32. "You have the Orange Bowl, the University of Miami, and a lot of people around here bleed orange. You can say I bleed teal and orange. I keep it old school, but I'm also going with the new school."

Raymond Pereira, a student at Florida International University, showed up three hours before the game to buy a new Marlins shirt, because he claimed "all of his gear is dated."

"I'm of Cuban heritage, and it's great to see this park materialize in this part of town," Pereira said. "This is the perfect team for this town. I can barely remember the World Series in 1997, but I was there for 2003 World Series. [Manager] Ozzie [Guillen] is the perfect leader for this club. Once I heard we had Ozzie, I knew we were going to be set."

Russell McBride, 59, arrived at Marlins Park more than four hours before the gates opened, which is quite a feat when you consider he lives in Virginia. He believes that the Marlins are going to win it all this season, and there is a theory behind his prediction.

"Our first three batters are the fastest in baseball, and that gives the Marlins an edge," said McBride, a one-time Minor League broadcaster. "They can be a distraction to the pitchers, and maybe as a result, we win a few more games because of mistakes the pitchers make on the mound. Those few wins could be the difference between winning and losing or going to the playoffs."

Liz McClellan and Brad Van Auken received quite a few strange looks as they roamed the plaza before the game, but they understood why. McClellan sported a Marlins T-shirt, and Van Auken wore a Cardinals jersey.

"This stadium gives a good run at the new Busch Stadium," Van Auken said. "As a Cardinals fan, I hate to say it, but this is really impressive."

Van Auken wasn't the only fan impressed. Brandy Pollack and young sons Luke and Bennett called Opening Night an experience they will never forget.

"The signs are bilingual, and the vibe is really cool," Pollack said. "The sculptures and all the action show what it's like to live here. This place is incredible."

This place is Miami.

"You can't get more Miami than this," McClellan said. "The music, the people, the energy and the cameras and the celebrities. And lots and lots of bass."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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