Before Spring Training begins and preparation for the 2010 season gets under way, the Marlins will give a little back -- and make a little history in the process.
Several members of the organization will be paying a visit to United States military personnel serving in Iraq and Kuwait from Jan. 24-Feb. 1, making the Marlins the first Major League franchise to travel to the region since the war in Iraq started, a team-issued news release announced Wednesday.
Representing the Marlins will be manager Fredi Gonzalez, reigning National League Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, catcher John Baker, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, senior director of team travel Bill Beck and director of marketing and promotions Matt Britten. The club will also be sending four members of the Mermaids dance group.
"We are extremely proud of the men and women who serve our country, and we are thankful for this unique opportunity to show our appreciation," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said in a statement. "This trip is important to all of us, and we take our responsibility to support our soldiers very seriously. The Marlins have long enjoyed a great relationship with the military, and we're proud to continue this great tradition."
Coghlan's brother, Kevin, is a corporal in the U.S. Marines, and Gonzalez attended the Army-Navy college football game with his son, Alex, in December.
The Marlins will be making the trip in association with Armed Forces Entertainment, the official Department of Defense agency for providing entertainment to U.S. military personnel overseas, which hosts more than 1,200 shows around the world each year.
The Marlins will be providing daily blog updates and photos of their trip on marlins.com.
"We are very excited the Marlins ballclub will be touring Southwest Asia with Armed Forces Entertainment, and we know the troops stationed overseas will enjoy the little piece of home they'll get with a visit from some of their favorite professional athletes," Col. Edward F. Shock, chief of AFE, said in a statement. "We know how busy this time of year can be with the team preparing to begin Spring Training, so we are honored the players, manager and dance team members are taking time away from their already hectic schedules to visit with our men and women in uniform."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.