The Miami Marlins were on their way to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t some very important baseball going on at Marlins Park.
That’s because, thanks to a terrific “reach-out” by Marlins CEO Derek Jeter and team management a month ago, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High baseball team, a group of youngsters who have had to refocus their season following the horrific events of a Feb. 14 mass shooting that took 17 lives, got a wonderful and much-needed distraction.
Eagles players, along with their opponents, the Colts of Coral Springs High School got to live baseball – big league style.
From the jumbotron scoreboard in center field which had each players’ picture and bio when they came to bat, to meeting up with Marlins players in the clubhouse earlier in the day before they boarded their plane for Philly, to being introduced player-by-player before the game and standing down each baseline, players got the full monty red carpet treatment.
When it was over, Douglas had secured itself a 9-4 win over the Colts to raise its overall record to 8-3 and 4-0 in their district. But as happy as coach Todd Fitz-Gerald was over the result, on a day and evening like this, it perhaps was just as important that his players simply have a great time and enjoy the experience.
“This is just unbelievable,” said Fitz-Gerald. “What better thing could you ask for than to be standing here with your team playing in a major league ball park. It’s awesome. We just could not be more thankful to Derek Jeter and the Marlins group for allowing us the opportunity to come in here tonight and watch these kids enjoy themselves this way. How many kids can get to say they do something like this unless they become big leaguers.”
While there was baseball to be played, you knew there was nothing normal about this night when both teams came out, intermingled together and posed for cameras as one group – before the game.
To say the Marlins have reached out to the Douglas community might be understating the fact.
After hosting Douglas players at their Jupiter spring training headquarters on Feb. 23, nine days after the tragedy and wore Douglas caps along with the rest of the league that day, the Marlins and the Chicago Cubs wore maroon MSD patches with a ribbon on their jerseys during their opening four-game series last weekend.
And they still aren’t done. On Sunday, April 15, when the Marlins host the Pittsburgh Pirates, it will be “Stoneman Douglas Day” at Marlins Park where all Eagles students and faculty will receive two free tickets to the game.
In addition, a sign is posted along the bottom of the left field wall with “MSDSTRONG” and 17 starts dedicated to the memory of those killed in the shooting that will remain there all season long.
Fitz-Gerald later confirmed that Douglas’ opponent selected for this game was no accident. That Coral Springs is not only the school’s main rival but that the community itself is right next to Parkland and there was shared grief between both.
Asked about the interaction between his players and Marlins players in the clubhouse before they left for the airport, Fitz-Gerald, who led this program to a state and national title (Baseball America) just two years ago, could only smile.
“It was just awesome,” said Fitz-Gerald. Certain players went over with to one group of kids and other players went over with another group. I actually had two players (Marlins pitchers Drew Steckenrider and Jacob Turner) who I coached in the 2008 AFLAC All-American game that I was able to visit with so the whole thing was great.”
Players were not made available to the media at any point but plenty of proud Douglas parents were present and accounted for, fully-adorned in their “Douglas-Strong” maroon T-shirts.
“The Marlins have been amazing,” said Marnie Auerbach, mother of Douglas second baseman and South Alabama commit Brandon Auerbach before the game.. “From first inviting them up to opening day of spring training, to wearing our hats on opening day to tonight to having a day for the school on April 15 – the Marlins are rock stars and we will never be able to thank them enough for what they have done.”
Mom Auerbach then got quite a treat in the last of the second when son Brandon stepped up to the plate and drilled a shot over Coral Springs right fielder Jordan Brown’s head that rolled all the way to the wall. With good speed, Brandon Auerbach raced around the bases for an inside-the-park two run homer which completed a five run second inning staking the Eagles to a 5-0 lead.
As an added touch, the Marlins then set off their Marlins Park Home Run Sculpture as they do normally when a Marlins player homers.
“He was so excited when he found out about this,” said Marnie Auerbach. “What an exciting night for Brandon and all of these boys.”
▪ Miami Springs 16, Mourning 0 (4 inn.): WP: Javier Prevost, 5 Ks; Tommy Diaz 1-3, 2 RBI; Steven Torres 2-2, 2R; Carlos Rey 2-3, RBI. MS: 14-1.
▪ Catholic Challenge in Orlando: Belen Jesuit 8, Cardinal Gibbons 6: WP: Alejandro Torres; Gabe DeZendegui 3-4, 2 2Bs, 2R, RBI; Dorian Gonzalez - 3 for 4; 2B; R; RBI; Humberto Torres 3-4, RBI; Armando Albert 3-5, 2R; Hugo Garcia 1-2, 2 RBI; Joshua Salandy 1-4, 2 RBI. BEL: 10-4.
▪ Southwest 9, Coral Park 2: Jorge Tejeda 2-3, 2 RBI; Eddie Sierra 2-2, 3 RBI; Jordan Worley 2-3, RBI; Erick Mondelo 3 SB, 3R; WP: Mario Garcia, 6 IP 8 Ks.
▪ Southwest 5, IMG Academy Gray 4 (9 inn.): WP: Michael Piulats, 5 IP, no earned runs, 6 K; Mario Garcia 3 IP, 0 runs, 5 K; Osmany Hernandez RBI single, game-winning SF in 9th.
▪ Palmetto 2, Keys Gate Charter 0: WP: Roger Ceballos, 2H, 7 Ks; S: Jake Sheeder; Alex Castaneda 2-2, 2B, R, RBI; Nelson Vila 1-3; Gabe Garcia 1-3, RBI. PAL: 13-2
▪ Braddock 12, South Dade 10: WP: Carydad Bolivar; Nicole Caldera 2-4, 4 RBI; Bolivar 2-3, 2 R; Natalie Rego and Madison Smith one hit each.
▪ Coral Gables 19, Miami Beach 2: WP Arianna Arroyo (3-0) 3 IP, 6K; Ericka Eusebio 3-3, HR, 4 RBI, 3R; Angie Bonilla 1-2, HR, 4 RBI, 2R; Gabby Cutie 3-3, 3B, 3 RBI, 2R, SB. CG: 9-7
▪ Palmetto 11, Coral Reef 1: WP: Brittney Barczak (9-2) 0 H, 5Ks; Olivia Rapp 2-2 1R; Hannah Burge 1-2, 3R; Tatum Rodriguez 2-3, 2B, 2R, RBI; PAL:14-2.
▪ Southridge 17, Killian 2: WP: JayLiah Bivens one-hitter, 3 runs, RBI; Mya Tabb: 2 for 3, 2 runs, 6 RBI; Melissa Masferrer 1 for 2, 3 RBI, HR; Elisabeth Valdes 3 runs, RBI.
▪ Colonial Christian 17, Princeton Christian 2: Morgan Wells CG, 6 K (11-1) single, double, RBI; Jessica Givens 3 singles, triple, 3 RBI; Alexis Downing 3 singles, 2 RBI; Sophia Osborn 2 singles; CCS 12-1.
▪ Edison 60, Miami Springs 0: Destiny Doughty 8 REC for 101 yards, 3 TDs, 2 flag pulls; Irenna Hines 8 REC for 104 yards, 1 TD, 1 rush, 38 yards, 3 flag pulls; Tashumba Washington 1 REC, 48 yards, 2 flag pulls, 10 for 18, 83 yards passing, 1 TD; Charkeria Cooper 5 REC, 113 yards, 2 TDs, 3 flag pulls, INT; Nikesha Pierre 8 REC, 108 yards, 1 TD, 1 rush, 28 yards.
▪ Cypress Bay 16, Cooper City 14
▪ St. Thomas Aquinas 21, Lake Highland Prep 6: Jada Preston 6 goals,2 assists; Carly Steinlauf 3 goals, 1 assist; Caroline Stefans 4 goals, 4 assists, 10 draw controls.
▪ Palmetto 7, Varela 0: Samantha Alicea, Isabella Montana, Milena Vanderreis, Nathalie Vanderreis and Anastasia Dudaryk all won in singles. Montana/Alicea and Woodbury/Angeletti won in doubles.
▪ Mourning 7, Reagan 0: Elizabeth Kuznetsov won No. 1 singles. ATM 6-3.
▪ Palmetto 7, Varela 0: Randy Wilson, Kevin Li, Cole Gibson, Jonathan Blake and Ben Spiegelman won in singles. Wilson/Blake and Stone/Khanna won in doubles.
▪ Mourning 5, Reagan 2: Edward Luca, Gal Bach, and Juan Pena won in singles. ATM: 7-2
GIRLS’ WATER POLO
▪ Mother McAuley (Ill.) 11, Gulliver Prep 10: For GP, Elizabeth Perez 19 blocks, 1 assist, Niki Aulicino 4 goals, 3 assists, 3 steals; Shani Rupp 6 goals, 3 steals; Anastasia Perez-Ternent 2 assists, 5 steals. GULL: 20-1
BOYS’ WATER POLO
▪ Gulliver Prep 9, Belen Jesuit 4: Kamal Kay-Ramos 8 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal; Rene Peralta 6 goals, 1 assist, 3 steals; Bruno Rebessi 1 goal, 2 assists, 5 steals; Brandon Dunnigan 1 goal, 2 assists. GULL: 16-5.