The Major League Baseball season may still be weeks away from Opening Day, but the sport's newest home ballpark is officially open, thanks to two of Miami's top high school baseball programs.
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As reported by the Miami Herald, NBC Miami and a handful of other outlets, Miami (Fla.) Christopher Columbus High knocked off longtime rival Miami (Fla.) Belen Jesuit School, 6-4, to officially christen new Marlins Park, ensuring that a number of high school names will forever stand in Marlins Park's record books.
Speaking of which, here are some of the notable "firsts":
- First official pitch? It was thrown by Belen ace Christian Solis … and it was a strike.
- The first hit in the new park was delivered by Columbus pitcher Mike Vinson, who also earned a second spot in Marlins Park lore by earning the first win at the stadium
- Perhaps most notably, it was also a Columbus bat that delivered the first home run in Marlins Park, with 15-year-old catcher Brent Diaz's blast in the top of the seventh all but locking up the Explorer's 6-4 win to the backdrop of gyrating flamingoes (but not fireworks) on the ballpark's controversial and psychedelic home run tower, as covered in detail by Prep Rally's brotherly blog, Big League Stew.
"I tried putting a good swing on it, and sometimes you get lucky in baseball," Diaz told the Herald of his blast. "It was surreal. I was doing a little Cody Ross hop. I just got into the moment."
While Marlins Park will also host two exhibitions featuring the University of Miami and Florida International University later this week, for one night the spotlight was focused squarely on the prep stars. As well it should; unlike the UM and FIU games to come, Monday's game will last forever on both Columbus and Belen Jesuit's official records.
The historic nature of the occasion wasn't lost on the schools' two fan bases, either. The 6,000 tickets made available for the opening game reportedly sold out in minutes, and fans arrived in their wildest get-ups; there was at least one Mario and Luigi sighting in the Columbus fan section.
Despite all the excitement about Marlins Park's kick off, RivalsHigh national analyst Dallas Jackson pointed out that playing the game in a Major League stadium actually robbed a top notch prep field from use. Columbus features what is arguably one of the nation's best high school baseball facilities, complete with its own 25-foot "Blue Monster" in left field.
As one might expect, that was the last thing either squad was thinking about on Monday, with both squads celebrating the opportunity to pitch, hit and field on the same surface as their Major League heroes.
"For these kids, this is something they will remember the rest of their lives," Columbus president Brother Kevin Handibode told the Herald. "This stadium is beautiful. This was just a great experience for everyone."
Added Vinson, when asked about opening the stadium and earning the first win at the park by NBC Miami:
"It's something we'll never forget, we'll tell our kids someday," said Columbus senior pitcher Mike Vinson.