Charlie Hough remembers that day and remembers it well.
April 5, 1993.
“This place was hopping for baseball,” Hough said of South Florida.
Hough was standing inside Marlins Park on Tuesday, 25 years and about 20 miles removed from the time and spot where he threw the first pitch — the first pitch of the 575,209 that have been thrown in Marlins history.
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It was a called strike to the Dodgers’ Jose Offerman, and a franchise was born.
The modern-day Marlins intend to celebrate the inaugural season, and unveiled a black and teal 25th anniversary logo to about 60 original season ticket-holders who showed up for the event.
More than three million fans turned out to watch the Marlins during their first season at Joe Robbie Stadium, and Hough — then a 45-year-old knuckleballer — said it seemed back then that Major League Baseball would thrive in South Florida.
“It was just so much fun,” said Hough, who was born in Hawaii but grew up in Hialeah. “Everything just felt like it was going to work out.”
A crowd of 42,334 turned out for the inaugural game, and the Marlins didn’t disappoint, defeating the Dodgers 6-3. Hough got the win.
“Every first game as a pitcher that you’re going into, you’re going to be a little bit nervous,” Hough recalled. “But that particular one, I felt so comfortable here that I just felt like I was pitching in my backyard, or a high school game — like I was pitching at Milander Park in Hialeah.”
Hough said Miami was such a football town back then that local sportswriters, many of whom were unfamiliar with baseball protocol, were asking him questions as he was warming up in the bullpen before the game.
Hough was happy to oblige them.
“I can remember walking down to the bullpen with a news crew asking me questions when I was warming up,” Hough said. “You just don’t do that. But I said this is just too much fun and I can’t not do it.”
Hough struck out Offerman — the first batter of the game — on a pitch that was clearly outside of the strike zone.
“Caught the corner, I think,” Hough said with a grin.
It has been 25 years and so much has transpired with the Marlins. Two World Series titles. Eight straight years of losing. And now new ownership, hoping to recapture some of the energy that once existed for baseball in South Florida.
Players will wear the 25th anniversary logo patches throughout the season, and the team intends to wear commemorative throwback teal pinstripe uniforms during its June 8-10 series with the Padres.
Hough said he continues to hear from fans, even now, who were at the first game in ’93.
“I get letters every day from Marlins fans, and people who say they were at the first game,” Hough said. “I probably got two million letters from people who say they were at the first game. I’ll never forget it.”