Weekend at the Park

Thousands participate in UM Family Weekend with the Miami Marlins.

Coral Gables (April 30, 2012) — For decades, thousands of University of Miami fans flocked to Little Havana in Miami to attend Hurricanes football games at the Orange Bowl. But when the venerable stadium was demolished in 2008, the spirited atmosphere generated by Hurricanes faithful who streamed into the neighborhood on countless fall Saturdays was lost.

On April 27, 28, and 29 Little Havana once again came alive with the colors, sounds, and sights of UM as thousands of Hurricanes once again returned to the area—not for football, but baseball.

UM Family Weekend with the Miami Marlins marked its first year at the new 37,000-seat Marlins Park, located at the site of the former Orange Bowl.

The popular family-themed event, which offers UM employees a complimentary ticket to a Marlins game with the opportunity to purchase a limited number of additional passes for $1 each, also marked its first year as a three-day affair. Previous UM-Marlins outings had been held on one day only at Sun Life Stadium in north Miami-Dade County.

Amid the new digs and format, UM employees and their family members and friends brought plenty of their trademark enthusiasm, participating in games and giveaways at the West Plaza of Marlins Park and enjoying live music and a laser-fireworks display. To browse and download photos taken by our roving photographer, click here and use password “canes” (without quotation marks).

The UM band and dancers performed. Youngsters negotiated an obstacle course and demonstrated their pitching prowess at a dunk tank. Fans posed for pictures with Sebastian the Ibis and Billy the Marlin.

With more than 23,700 tickets distributed for the weekend event, fans also got their fill of baseball, with the highlight of the Marlins’ series against the Arizona Diamondbacks coming on Saturday night, when third baseman Hanley Ramirez singled in the ninth inning to give the Marlins a 3-2 victory.

It was also an occasion to celebrate UM programs, schools, and initiatives. Employees got a sneak preview of Your UHealth—a new initiative to bring faculty, staff, and their families the latest information about UHealth’s physicians, facilities, services, and innovations.

On April 27 the Marlins donated $50,000 to the UM Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence as part of Marlins President David Samson’s 50-mile run from Pompano Beach to Miami, which both honored the 5,000 construction workers who built Marlins Park and raised $500,000 for the franchise’s chosen charities.

The Miami Marlins Community Foundation gave $7,500 to the School of Education and Human Development. Participating in the check presentation were, from left, Sebastian the Ibis; Alfredo Mesa, executive director of the Miami Marlins Community Foundation; Tywan Martin, instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences; Windy Dees, assistant professor of kinesiology and sport sciences; Thomas J. LeBlanc, UM executive vice president and provost; and Billy the Marlin.

Samson’s support team included UHealth Sports Medicine specialists who last year gained national attention as the medical crew that followed endurance swimmer Diana Nyad on her attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. The department is the official medical and physical therapy team for the Miami Marlins and maintains a physical therapy clinic at Marlins Park.

On April 28 the Miami Marlins Community Foundation presented a $7,500 check to the School of Education and Human Development to fund scholarships for students in the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences. And the School of Communication received a $5,000 check for the Suzanne Rayson Scholarship Fund for students in the Broadcast Journalism Program who have shown an interest in sports broadcasting. Rayson, who served as the Marlins director of broadcasting from 2002 to 2008, died after a battle with cancer.

On-field activities at each game also featured UM employees throwing out ceremonial first pitches. Eugene W. Anderson, dean of the School of Business Administration; Nerissa Morris, vice president for Human Resources; and Steve Cawley, vice president for Information Technology and chief information officer, threw out first pitches on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively.

The School of Communication received $5,000 from the Marlins Foundation. From left, Sebastian the Ibis; Alfredo Mesa, executive director of the Marlins Foundation; Paul Driscoll, associate professor and vice dean for academic affairs at the School of Communication; Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc; and Billy the Marlin.

Three of the University’s Hurricane Champions—employees recognized for their outstanding service through a new peer recognition program—also displayed their pitching arms. Tesla Barrientos, office manager in the Department of Marketing at the School of Business Administration; Martha Gonzalez, senior administrative assistant at Medical Finance; and Amel Saied, research associate in the Division of Marine Geology and Geophysics at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, threw out first pitches on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively.

After making her first pitch, Gonzalez joined her husband, Andreas, sister Lisa, sons Andy and Christopher, and nephew Jesse in the stands to enjoy the game. Since the UM-Marlins promotion started six years ago, Gonzalez has missed only two events.

“I’m originally from the Bronx,” said Gonzalez, a 27-year employee at the Miller School. “But I don’t root for the Yankees. I’m a Marlins fan all the way.”


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Martha Gonzalez, left, senior administrative assistant at Medical Finance, and Nerissa Morris, vice president for Human Resources, threw out ceremonial first pitches on Saturday.

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