Marlins gear up for 20-year celebration in home opener

Marlins gear up for 20-year celebration in home opener

NEW YORK -- A celebration of the past will blend with a new beginning on Monday in the Marlins' home opener.

After spending a week in the cold on the road at Washington and New York, the climate-controlled Marlins Park will be open for business.

The Marlins will send Kevin Slowey to the mound on Monday night to take on the Braves, who are going with left-hander Paul Maholm.

More than 30,000 tickets have already been sold for the 7:10 p.m. ET contest, which is the second season that the Marlins will play in their retractable-roof building.

"This is our first home game, and it's great to get home after a road trip, but there is nothing like Opening Day," Marlins president David Samson said before Sunday's game against the Mets at Citi Field. "It's our home opener. It's different than Opening Day, which has a certain magic to it."

Interest in the home opener has built since Opening Day on April 1. More than 1,000 tickets a day have been sold.

As part of the opening ceremonies, the Marlins will have a video tribute to their past. It's the 20th anniversary season of the franchise and the 10th since winning the World Series.

"It's been a very interesting, exciting 20 years, lots of ups and downs," Samson said. "Throughout the season there will be very interesting videos, and little nuggets."

In year 2 of the ballpark, there will be some changes.

For one, where the Miami pitchers warm up will be different, as the Marlins have switched bullpens. They will now be on the right-field side, with the visitors taking over on the left.

The move was made so the relievers will be directly in front of the Marlins' dugout, which is on the third-base side.

In terms of the product on the field, the Marlins are in a rebuilding stage after revamping their high-priced 2012 roster.

A year ago, the organization had great expectations in their inaugural season at Marlins Park. But the team fell flat, finishing 69-93, and the roster was overhauled.

Now, with a youthful squad under the direction of first-year manager Mike Redmond, a former Marlins backup catcher, the organization is hoping fans will embrace the new players.

"We'll do our best to get people to sort of associate with the Marlins, and appreciate the cycle we are in at any particular time," Samson said.

The Marlins are not announcing what their season-ticket-holder number is, but it is reportedly around 5,000 -- down from 12,000 in '12.

"Why are they down?" Samson said. "I think it's clear we didn't have the type of season we wanted, either on or off the field."

To inspire fan interest, the Marlins have planned a number of promotions.

"We want the ballpark to be available for people to come and watch games," Samson said. "Price should never be an option. There is great availability, and every seat is a great seat. Having people come out to games is important."

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.