What stood out about the first game in 2012 is what it meant to the organization and to Miami and all of South Florida. It was the first game ever in the new stadium, Marlins Park.
Everything surrounding that day was new -- new park, new colors, the new name. We were going from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins. A new beginning. That's what we represent now. That's our focus now.
As someone who played in the old ballpark, where we had rainouts and rain delays, it was exciting to be playing in a ballpark with a retractable roof. But in the first game ever at Marlins Park, the weather was nice, and the roof was open.
The whole day was something special. We played the Cardinals, who had won the World Series the season before. The date was April 4, and the ballpark was filled with so much excitement. We ended up losing, 4-1, but the game meant much more than a final score.
Rafael Furcal, who is now our second baseman, was the first batter ever in Marlins Park.
I was in right field when he came to bat to start the game. A lot of camera lights were going off. A lot of flash bulbs were going off everywhere. I remember those lights more than hearing the noise.
We were used to playing the Cardinals, because we saw them throughout Spring Training. The Marlins and Cardinals share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.
Because we were playing the Cardinals on Opening Day, there was a little more anticipation in the spring. We knew those guys a little bit better. We played them so much in the spring.
Officially, the ballpark opened with that April 4 game. But before that, I had been to Marlins Park a few times. When they were getting close to finishing the building, a few players took batting practice on the field for the workers. We also played some exhibition games against college teams to see how the ballpark played. We played the University of Miami and Florida International University. We even played the Yankees in a couple of exhibitions there.
I also went there at night to get a feel for how fly balls would play.
Opening Day that year also was a little weird, because we were playing the Cardinals for just one game. The way they did the schedule, our game was on national TV the day before many of the other teams opened. We played the Cardinals once and then were on the road to Cincinnati.
A big moment in the opener came before the first pitch.
We were in the clubhouse, and we had a very special guest come to visit us. The great Muhammad Ali was there.
That was unbelievable to see him. My whole life I'd only seen videos and quotes and stuff from him. To be able to see him in person was just amazing. He was sitting down. We shook his hand and took pictures.
They brought Muhammad Ali as the "mystery" guest to take part in the pregame ceremony.
Having a legend in the ballpark made the night even more memorable.
The pregame ceremony had so much buzz.
I had never really been part of something like that. There were all the cameras. The attention we were receiving over the new ballpark. We had the reality TV show "The Franchise" following us around. It was exciting.
Even in introductions, there was a Miami flavor. When we were introduced, showgirls walked us out. There was so much excitement for Miami and South Florida. It was very cool to be a part of the new start.