Marlins set to take on new identity in Miami

Marlins set to take on new identity in Miami

Marlins set to take on new identity in Miami
MIAMI -- More than just a name is changing.

What the Marlins are undergoing is a complete makeover, a new identity.

At an announcement ceremony on Friday night -- complete with a new uniform fashion show and a private concert by rapper Pitbull -- the organization will officially become the Miami Marlins.

Swapping out the Florida Marlins for the Miami Marlins was part of the agreement with local officials when funding for the new ballpark was approved a few years ago.

At their 37,000-seat, retractable-roof ballpark on Friday, the Marlins will unveil their new uniforms and new logos. They're ushering in a fresh start and a completely new appearance.

As a lead up to the name change, the Marlins hosted a Fish and Chips fundraiser for the Marlins Community Foundation on Thursday night at the ballpark. Technically, it was the first team function at the baseball-only ballpark. Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck and Omar Infante were among the players in attendance.

The fundraiser was in a large tent outside the new ballpark, which is more than 85 percent completed and remains on schedule and on budget to open in March 2012.

"This is the first event at the new ballpark, and it's exciting," team president David Samson said Thursday night. "Seeing people parked in the garages is unbelievably exciting. Seeing people come here, experiencing the ballpark -- this is what we've been looking forward to for a lot of years."

The rebranding of the franchise comes after 19 seasons of the team playing at spacious Sun Life Stadium, located in no-frills Miami Lakes, near the Broward County and Miami-Dade County lines.

The Florida Marlins have always shared their home with the Miami Dolphins, who control Sun Life Stadium. The Marlins compiled a 1,435-1,575 all-time record, and they won World Series championships in 1997 and 2003.

Moving to the Little Havana section of Miami brings the franchise closer to the glitz of South Beach and the inner-city feel of downtown Miami.

"I think they'll do well," said former Marlins manager Jack McKeon, who once again is a special adviser to team owner Jeffrey Loria. "I think the club will draw much better. I think the revenues will be increased. I think they will be in position to spend some money to retain their players and get some free agents. I think it's going to be a successful operation."

The new ballpark alone promises to be a selling point. The Marlins are looking to dramatically upgrade their roster, and the current players are welcoming anyone wanting to be part of the club's new beginning.

"Anybody that wants to come, and if you're good, come on over," Morrison said. "I want to win."

From the fans' perspective, the ballpark offers a complete upgrade over Sun Life Stadium. For the first time, Marlins fans don't have to worry about rain delays or enduring the excessive South Florida summer heat.

The seats are wider than the one's at the club's former home, and they're all angled toward home plate.

The new building already is being used in the recruitment of players.

On Tuesday, free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle got a stadium tour. The same routine was done on Wednesday for shortstop Jose Reyes, who is also testing the market. In the next couple of days, the Marlins are expected to show slugger Albert Pujols around the ballpark.

First baseman Gaby Sanchez, who grew up in Miami, says the building alone will attract top talent to the Marlins.

"I don't think you really have to talk up anything," Sanchez said. "I think this stadium says it all by itself."

With their new logo and uniforms, the team will sport a fresh look.

Merchandise will go on sale on Friday at 11 p.m. ET at the ballpark, and it will remain on sale at the stadium through Sunday. Fans also can purchase online at www.marlins.com.

On Saturday, Marlins gear will be on sale at select South Florida outlets -- Sawgrass Mills (12801 Sunrise Blvd.), Dolphin Mall (11401 NW 12th St. in Miami), Aventura Mall (19501 Biscayne Blvd.) and the Marlins en Miami Store (3701 SW 8th St.).

Marlins players will be on hand at several locations. Johnson and Nolasco are expected at Sawgrass from noon to 1 p.m. From 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m., Infante, Gaby Sanchez and Ramirez are scheduled to be at Dolphin Mall, and Buck and Anibal Sanchez are slated to visit the Marlins en Miami Store from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

"Judging by sales and judging by the general excitement around our team, I'd say people are feeling pretty good," Samson said.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.