Latin Grammy Award-winner Omar provides entertainment
By Mark Newman
MIAMI -- A few powerhouse tracks into the inaugural MLB All-Star Zumba event beside the water on Sunday morning at Bayfront Park, Beto Perez peeled off his customized Marlins home jersey on stage and the sleeveless red shirt underneath it read:
TURN IT UP
BREAK IT DOWN
SWEAT IT OUT
That is exactly what happened in downtown Miami, where hundreds of fans torched calories and rocked to contagious and upbeat rhythms for over an hour and a half under a blazing sun with the guy who started it all, as well as Latin Grammy Award-winning reggaeton star Don Omar.
Zumba is the largest dance-fitness program in the world, with 15 million people taking classes on a weekly basis in 186 countries, and now it will be one of the great memories of what is unfolding as an incredible first All-Star Week to visit the Sunshine State.
"I am so happy and so proud because Miami is my city," Perez said. "MLB is [here] this weekend, and the Marlins are my team, and of course I am so happy to be here for something so special like this class today. Miami's my city, I have a lot of followers here, and a lot of people from other cities are coming and they ask, 'What is Zumba?' And this is the perfect day to discover what is Zumba. It is a fiesta."
Perez, a dancer who moved from Colombia to Miami in 1999, never could have imagined when he co-created Zumba one day that it would eventually become an official event in Major League Baseball's annual summer showcase. Actually, there was a bit of a theme on this All-Star Sunday, because he was one of at least two key figures from Colombia, the other being Edgar Renteria, who would manage the World team in the subsequent SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
"Zumba was created by accident many years ago, because one day I forgot my music, and the music they had, it was music they were recording for the radio station," Perez said. "Now we have a lot of people in different cities, different countries, different cultures, different races. I love that, because I think that with Zumba, we make the unity for the people. ... It's like a new Woodstock -- peace and love, and dance.
"It's a big deal [to be part of All-Star Week], because it's happiness, it's entertainment, it's a sport, it's a combination of sports of very high quality and the fitness world. I think this combination is amazing, because people are combining the two worlds together, and the most important thing is to have fun and smile. ... Miami is a party city, and I think we will be contagious, this energy with people in other cities, the baseball people and the Zumba followers."
Kelsie Ackman, a Cubs fan from Tampa, smiled through the 90-minute class and came away feeling fulfilled about being part of an official All-Star event. She used to teach Zumba, gave it up about five years ago, and this was her first class since then -- the ultimate class.
"It was really awesome," said Ackman, who is going with a friend to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby over at Marlins Park on Monday. "I know this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and just to see all the energy and the crowd and everyone having so much fun out here, it was really special."
The sun was sweltering -- it felt like 96 degrees -- but there was ample ice water and cold towels from Arm & Hammer, shade was nearby for anyone who wanted to rest a bit, and it was an effective workout. Perez at one point told them to imagine they were "cold," and he also scaled barricades to go out into the crowd and dance right alongside everyone taking his class.
"The heat didn't even matter," Ackman said. "To be part of the event, a once-in-a-lifetime thing, to be that close to [Perez] and look at what he's created and brought all these people by his vision and making it happen, it is really awesome."
After Perez and his dancers exited the stage, Omar and his dancers kept the beat going, until finally, almost reluctantly, it was time to end the best fitness class in baseball history.
"We are so excited to be here in Miami," said Felicia Principe, MLB's vice president of advertising and marketing, watching the colorful scene from the side of the stage. "We wanted to create an amazing event that was reflective of the city, and for an inaugural MLB All-Star Zumba event, we couldn't be happier. The energy of the crowd -- it has been amazing. To have Zumba creator Beto Perez out here was wonderful, and to have reggaeton star Don Omar, he's been absolutely phenomenal. We're really thrilled with this event."
On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.