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Marlins, Mets to play series in Puerto Rico

Marlins, Mets to play series in Puerto Rico

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Expanding their market internationally has long been an objective for the Marlins.

This June, it becomes a reality.

Major League Baseball announced Thursday the Florida Marlins and New York Mets are switching their three-game set on June 28-30 from Miami to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Individual and group ticket sales for the three-game series go on sale at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday at MLB.com.

The games were originally slated to be played at Sun Life Stadium. Now, Florida will be the home team in San Juan.

"Being the Gateway to the Americas, we want to try to capture that market," said Claude Delorme, the Marlins' executive vice president of ballpark development. "There are a lot of people who were born in Puerto Rico and they live in Miami.

"The more they can adopt the Marlins, it just allows us to grow our fan base, and the business, over time."

Switching this series has been public for several months. Florida began selling individual-game tickets at its annual FanFest on Feb. 13, but the club did not make these days in June available, anticipating the change to Puerto Rico.

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The games will be played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, a 19,000-seat artificial-turf facility that has attracted big league games in the past.

From a league standpoint, the Marlins-Mets series will be the first MLB regular-season games played internationally since the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's opened their 2008 campaigns in Japan.

"Obviously, Major League Baseball and Puerto Rico share a long history together -- long before the most recent events," said Paul Archey, MLB's senior vice president of international business operations.

It won't be the first time the Marlins and Mets play regular-season games in San Juan, either. When the Montreal Expos played home games in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in 2003-04, both teams made one trip to Puerto Rico in each season.

Hiram Bithorn also was a host park for World Baseball Classic games in 2006 and 2009.

Finalizing the three-game series in June comes a year after both clubs discussed, but were unable to consummate, playing in Puerto Rico in 2009.

The Marlins have been open about wanting to expand their marketing efforts into Latin America. Playing meaningful games in Puerto Rico is a start.

The Mets, typically a big draw in South Florida, were a team the promoters wanted to include in this event. The Marlins weren't willing to move a weekend series, but they agreed to switch these Monday through Wednesday games.

"From our standpoint, when we started negotiations with Major League Baseball, one of the teams the promoter wanted was the Mets, because of the diversity of that team and the presence of Puerto Rican players," Delorme said. "With the Mets coming in three times, we didn't want to use any weekends for those reasons."

All three games are expected to be televised, and therefore available on MLB.TV, with the Monday night game slated to be on ESPN2. The MLB Network, as well as local television in New York and South Florida also are likely to televise the games. The exact details have not been released.

The Marlins are also seeking to play another three-game series in Puerto Rico in 2011. There have been discussions, but nothing will be finalized until after this event at the end of June.

Casting a wider marketing net comes at a time Florida is getting closer to moving into its new ballpark.

In 2012, the Marlins will be opening their 37,000-seat, retractable-roof stadium in the Little Havana section of Miami. Once in their new home, the team will not seek to play regular-season games in Puerto Rico, at least not in the early years of the stadium.

Also in 2012, the franchise will change its name to the Miami Marlins.

The Mets have a large following on the island. Their roster includes Puerto Rican natives Carlos Beltran, Omir Santos, Pedro Feliciano, Angel Pagan and Alex Cora.

On the Marlins' 40-man roster, Jorge Jimenez is from Puerto Rico. Pitcher Rick VandenHurk, who is from the Netherlands, played winter ball in Puerto Rico, as have several other Florida players in the past.

Marlins special assistant Tony Perez, a Hall of Famer, makes Puerto Rico his home in the offseason.

"I'm very happy this is happening," Perez said. "I like to see Major League Baseball played in Puerto Rico, because I've lived there for a long, long time. I really love to see the people come to the ballpark, to see Major League teams."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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