Winter Warm-Up to cap Marlins Ayudan Week
Saturday's event gives fans a chance to meet players, get autographs and more
MIAMI -- Before taking the field for the first time on Sunday, Marlins players, coaches and front-office staff will spend the week touching base with the community.
The Marlins Ayudan Week is underway, and it features team representatives visiting a number of locations throughout South Florida. Stops will be made at various schools, youth baseball fields and an RBI game on Monday night at Marlins Park.
The caravan-like week culminates on Saturday with the annual T-Mobile Miami Marlins Winter Warm-Up.
The Warm-Up (previously called FanFest) is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET at Marlins Park, and it's free to the public. It also marks the first day individual game tickets for the regular season go on sale at www.marlins.com and at the ballpark. All players on the 40-man roster are expected to be on hand Saturday.
In years past, the Marlins regularly had their Winter Warm-Up (previously FanFest) the week before Spring Training got underway. Now, it will take place the day before pitchers and catchers officially launch Spring Training on Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.
Sean Flynn, the Marlins' senior vice president of marketing and event booking, says the organization aims to have the Warm-Up after the Super Bowl and before Spring Training.
"Typically, we always want to let the Super Bowl pass, and let football run its course," Flynn said. "Now it's time to talk baseball. We're always between the Super Bowl and when pitchers and catchers report. We try to get as close to that date as possible."
The highlight during the week is the Jack McKeon Marlins Celebrity Golf Classic on Wednesday at Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne.
"The golf tournament is important, and that's a chance to meet everybody," Flynn said. "All the guys are committed. That's the first 'full-access' day. That's one of the highlights."
For Marlins fans, the Winter Warm-Up is the main meet-and-greet session. The West Plaza will have a number of interactive activities for kids. Fans also can take tours of Marlins Park, get autographs and purchase tickets.
Season-ticket plans are available, and the Winter Warm-Up provides the opportunity to personally select your seat at the ballpark.
To keep up with technology, the Marlins also are making a few new additions to enhance the fan experience.
"We'll probably have a couple of different player interactions, like take a 'selfie' with a player, things like that," Flynn said. "The core of Winter Warm-Up will be what folks are used to -- autograph sessions, tours and single-game tickets will go on sale.
"Some of the smaller things we're tweaking a little bit, we're catching up on technology. We're using some smartphone things, like taking selfies and some cool stuff that is more technologically advanced."
On the field, the Marlins are looking for a strong bounce-back season after they finished last in the National League East with a 62-100 record.
Manager Mike Redmond enters his second season, and the team has some of the most promising young players in the game. Right-hander Jose Fernandez is the reigning winner of NL Rookie of the Year Award, and Giancarlo Stanton is a premier power hitter.
A reshaped front office had a busy offseason, bringing in a number of new faces.
Four free agents are expected to take over starting roles -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia (catcher), Rafael Furcal (second base), Garrett Jones (first base) and Casey McGehee (third base). All are expected to be at the Winter Warm-Up.