Stoneman Douglas High baseball coach Todd Fitz-Gerald doesn’t usually put calls on speaker in his clubhouse for all his players to hear.
But you do when the voice on the other end belongs to Derek Jeter.
“It’s actually pretty cool, we were at practice and he called us and told us he wanted us to come and play at Marlins Park,” Fitz-Gerald said. “The kids lost it. They’re really excited. They can’t wait.”
As part of a series of tributes the Marlins are planning in honor of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Jeter invited the Eagles’ baseball team to play a game on April 4 at 6:30 p.m. against neighborhood rival Coral Springs, the alma mater of Miami outfielder Lewis Brinson.
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The Marlins will honor Douglas in multiple ways starting with their opening weekend series against the Chicago Cubs.
First, they will post a sign on the outfield wall at Marlins Park that will remain there for the duration of the season.
The sign will be placed on the left field wall in front of the visiting team’s bullpen, displaying a maroon-colored ribbon (the same as one of Douglas’ school colors) with 17 stars in honor of the lives lost in the shooting. It will also have the letters “MSD” displayed across the middle of the ribbon.
And similar to what they and the rest of Major League Baseball’s clubs did during their Spring Training openers in late February, both the Marlins and the Cubs will wear patches with the same ribbon during the four-game series that runs from Thursday through next Sunday.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, an alumnus of Douglas High, is also planning to host four of the victims’ families during Friday’s game as his guests where they will get to participate in pregame activities.
The Marlins will also host all Douglas students later in the season as part of a special “Douglas Day” on April 15 when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Jackie Robinson Day. Douglas students and staff will have free admission to the game.
As part of Jeter’s invitation to play at Marlins Park, Douglas and Coral Springs players will arrive at the park early, take batting practice, and interact with Marlins players before they depart to Philadelphia for their first road trip of the season.
Jeter and the Marlins did something similar last month when they hosted Douglas’ baseball and softball teams at their spring training facility in Jupiter before their preseason opener. The team later wore Douglas caps and warm-up shirts with “MSD Strong” on them.
Fitz-Gerald said Brinson and Justin Bour also recently visited a Douglas baseball practice and spent a couple of hours working out with their players.
“They’ve been really great throughout all of this and really stepped up for us,” Fitz-Gerald said.