We’ve reached the quarter-pole of the 2021 Grapefruit League.
Leading off with Leading Off
Marlins Park wasn’t packed but there was still a buzz in the air during team’s Leading Off event. 2,500 lucky fans were able to return to Marlins Park for the mini FanFest on Saturday for the first time in over a year.
Those who secured the special Field Pass for on-field activities were able to participate in walking the base paths, pitching in the bullpen, hitting in a batting cage, and playing catch on the field. Young Fish fans under 12 years old were also able to swing for the centerfield fences as ballpark team members tossed wiffle balls for a small-scale home run derby. All fans were invited to take a walk behind-the-scenes to see the clubhouse, indoor batting cages, and barbershop.
There were a variety of COVID-19 protocols around Marlins Park on Saturday that will also be used throughout the season, including mandatory facemasks, physical distancing, frequent cleanings of high touch areas, and streamlined experiences around the ballpark.
At the Leading Off event, almost all fans seemed to comply with facemask guidelines and physical distancing markings. Seats were also individually zip-tied to enforce distancing between pods. On the field, areas were clearly separated to ensure proper distancing and Marlins Park team members were readily available to enforce safety protocols and ensure they ran smoothly.
One thing that was not present during the event but will be used prior to games are one of the more interesting approaches to COVID-19 protocols: the Marlins will be using drones to disinfect seats in the ballpark. MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola shared the video below of the drone in action.
Meant to share this drone footage earlier. Disinfection demonstration of seats along the first-base line. Technology! pic.twitter.com/GAAWriUvxw
— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) March 18, 2021
Overall, the health and safety measures were executed well and surely helped to instill confidence in fans who plan on returning to the ballpark for Opening Day on April 1. The limited capacity to begin the season is 25% and the 9,300 or so tickets for Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays have sold out.
Monday’s game preview
If you can pry yourself away from all of the men’s and women’s college basketball games, the Grapefruit League matchup between aces Sandy Alcantara and Jack Flaherty will be televised locally (yes, really!) on FOX Sports Florida at 1:05 p.m. ET. We’ll even have a game thread article for it here. The network confirmed last week that their rebrand into Bally Sports Florida takes effect just in time for Opening Day.
The main player to watch will be Jazz Chisholm Jr. who has the hardest-hit ball and the farthest-hit ball for the Marlins this spring (both were home runs).
Entering the final week of exhibition games, avoiding injuries should be the utmost priority. The Marlins have been very fortunate in that department thus far, creating “good problems” when it comes to narrowing down which of the 53 players remaining at major league camp will begin the regular season as members of the 26-man active roster.
- Now through Friday, RotoWear is offering its popular Pitching Ninja t-shirt in Marlins blue.
- Recently added to the 2021 Marlins Season Preview: Daniel Castano, Jon Berti, Gio Gonzalez and Richard Bleier.
- Our partners at SimBull have opened up trading for SimMLB stocks! Use promo code fishstripes to receive a $10 bonus when making your first deposit.
- In the midst of his Grapefruit League dominance (0.00 ERA, 0.17 WHIP, 10 K in 6.0 IP), Anthony Bender explains why there’s been an uptick in the quality of his stuff this spring.
- David Fernandez of Swings and Mishes tries to make room for Bender in Miami’s Opening Day bullpen (it’d be surprising if that happened, but he’ll have a massive impact later in the season regardless).
- Max Meyer break downs his first trip to spring training, his ascent to becoming last year’s third overall pick and his multi-sport background in Minnesota.
- The late March/early April period is typically a busy time for MLB contract extensions. Salvador Pérez is getting $82 million from Royals, while the Mets are reportedly “willing to go” as high as $300 million to lock up Francisco Lindor long term.
- The Marlins tried to acquire emerging Cubs ace Jake Arrieta in July 2014, but weren’t comfortable giving up then-prospect J.T. Realmuto as the trade’s centerpiece. Fascinating “what if” considering how effective and durable Arrieta proved to be throughout the rest of his pre-free agent years.