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Excitement of opener becomes reality for nine Marlins

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Excitement of opener becomes reality for nine Marlins play video for Excitement of opener becomes reality for nine Marlins

WASHINGTON -- Playing in the big leagues may be the ultimate goal, but for those in uniform, there is something magical about Opening Day.

The festive atmosphere. The pregame introductions of all players, coaches and staff who stand on the white lines. The military flyovers. The widespread optimism, energy and excitement.

"Opening Day, for anybody who has played this game, or who has been part of this game, you realize how special it is," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We've got 25 guys out there, and every guy has got a different story of how he got to walking out on that line."

New hope has spread the Marlins' clubhouse, where there are a number of new players.

The Marlins are celebrating their 20th anniversary season, and they got under way on Monday at Washington.

In all, nine Miami players experienced their first big league opener -- Rob Brantly, Donovan Solano, Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Ruggiano, A.J. Ramos, Wade LeBlanc, Chris Valaika, Alex Sanabia and Jose Fernandez.

"It's going to be pretty cool," said Brantly, who made his MLB debut last Aug. 14. "I'm excited to be here with this team. Everybody worked hard in Spring Training. I feel like I've done what I can to prepare for this season. It's time to trust your abilities, and things you've worked on with your pitchers, and let it fly."

It's also a first for Redmond, who played 13 years in the big leagues. Now, the 41-year-old will be experiencing his first Opening Day as a big league manager.

"It's going to be exciting, just like it was as a player," Redmond said. "For me, it's always emotional."

A backup big league catcher, Redmond overcame long odds. He was a non-drafted player who went on to enjoy a 13-year big league career.

Along the way, he was part of the Marlins' 2003 World Series title team.

"Now here I am, two years after playing, walking out on that line as a manager," Redmond said. "I had three or four Opening Day starts, which was great. But when they announce me as the manager of this team, that's pretty special. That will be emotional."

Ruggiano, 30, has been playing professional baseball since 2004. Until Monday, he's never been part of a big league opener.

Even though he didn't start on Monday, the plan is for him to be in center field on Wednesday.

"I'm elated to be here right now," Ruggiano said. "I'm trying to keep my emotions at bay, and prepare myself for the game. It's something that I've always dreamed of. It's a blessing to be here, really."

The Marlins acquired Ruggiano from the Astros last May in a Minor League trade. Shortly afterward, he was promoted to the big leagues, and he became a solid contributor in Miami.

In Spring Training with the Astros in 2012, Ruggiano was close to making the Opening Day roster.

"Last year, it went down to the wire," Ruggiano said. "At the last second, they decided to go a different route."

Monday also was a first for Tino Martinez, Miami's new hitting coach. A standout big league first baseman, Martinez now is a big league coach for the first time.

"When you get out on that line, you sense such an accomplishment, and how much it means to be out there on that field on Opening Day," Redmond said. "It's a tough emotion to describe."

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.

{"event":["opening_day" ] }
{"event":["opening_day" ] }
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