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After many years of trying the Florida Marlins finally broke ground on Saturday for their baseball-only 37,000 seat stadium. Scheduled to open in the 2012 season the yet-unnamed facility will have a retractable roof and will be built in downtown Miami on the site of the historic Orange Bowl. In one concession to the declining market for luxury suites, there will be only 49 instead of 60 fat cat sky boxes. One of them will be designated to be bought on a single game basis and not owned like the others. “You will have sets of strangers sitting in one suite together,” said Marlins president David Samson. Imagine that! You mean like the good old days when you went to a ballgame and sat next to strangers and maybe even conversed with them. And didn’t care if you ever came back. What a novel idea though at suite prices I doubt that many average fans will take advantage.

There were two especially nice touches during Saturday’s ceremony: Charlie Hough and Benito Santiago, the Marlins’ first battery, threw out the first ball and it was announced that in 2012 the team will officially be known as the Miami Marlins, a historic name in baseball history. Such great older players and personages as Satchel Paige and Pepper Martin were once Miami Marlins. The more baseball returns to its local roots the better for tradition to grow.

Here’s another news item: Pedro Martinez signed last week with the Phillies for the rest of 2009 at a salary pro-rated for $1 million a year. He was immediately placed on the disabled list because obviously he’s not yet ready to pitch. To Pedro’s credit, he did not bad-mouth the Mets who chose not to re-sign him in the off-season after his last two injury-filled seasons. How much Pedro at a reported age of 37 has left in his arm is anyone’s guess but in his prime he was good for the game and a pitcher worthy of being known by only his first name.

If you haven’t been looking, the Phillies all of a sudden have opened up an eight-game lead in the NL East but the old saying is still true: “You can never have enough pitching.” I hope Pedro has at least a few last hurrahs left in him.

LOW’NFISH ‘N’ CHIPS – Tidbits gleaned in recent days from watching the MLB Extra Innings Package and reading papers and internet sources:

**Friday night I lucked into seeing three great infield defensive plays by the Colorado Rockies. They occurred within seconds! Clint Barmes diving deep into the second base hole; Todd Helton showing great footwork to keep his foot on first base catching Barmes’ off-balance throw; and on the next pitch Ian Stewart diving into third base foul territory and gunning out a San Diego Padre runner. One can see why the Rockies have emerged from the depths to reside comfortably over .500. Kudos to manager Jim Tracy who since he replaced Clint Hurdle as manager has the Rockies bringing back memories of their amazing late season run to the 2007 World Series (even if they were swept by the Red Sox.)

Here’s a tip of the cap to Marietta College in southern Ohio for producing Jim Tracy who showed he had managerial skills in previous stops with the Dodgers and the Pirates. Prior Marietta major leaguers include ace relievers Terry Mulholland and Kent Tekulve, the Ban Johnson biographer and Marietta history professor the late Eugene Murdock and Ban Johnson himself.

**Quote of the Year so far: “We always tell our guys: Home runs are thrown, not hit.” Bobby Cox explaining what he and his staff tried to drill home into recently traded right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Cox, who has survived so long with great success because he never bad-mouths his players, praised Francoeur for showing up every day ready to play and always hitting the cut off man. I excerpted the quote from by piece by Ben Shpigel in the Sat July 18 New York Times.

**Lament of the Year – If only Tom Watson had made par on the 72nd hole of the British Open on the Turnberry golf course all of us older folks would have rejoiced. It was not to be but what a gallant effort that will be sure to get great TV ratings. If Watson had won he would have been 11 years older than Julius Boros who at 48 had been the oldest golfer ever to win a major tournament. I don’t play golf and don’t follow the sport too closely but whenever an athlete turns back the clock and revives the potency of his youth, however fleetingly, it is a great story. And the 36-year-old winner of his first major Stewart Cink, a former Georgia Tech collegiate star, realized Watson’s great effort and was gracious in his victory.

Am attending all the three games of the Yankee-Oriole series starting Monday night – maybe I’m a glutton for punishment! - and will report on them and other issues on the baseball scene by the end of this weekend. Ciao for now!
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