This past Thursday the newly sworn-in Metro-Dade County Commission took the field against the seasoned Florida Marlins at Joe Robbie Stadium, in the county's first-ever professional baseball game.
On a glorious and sunny April afternoon, the Metro Movers defeated the major league Marlins 8-6, in front of a sellout crowd of 42,334. The contest was marked by six Movers errors and three solo home runs, all by third baseman Maurice "Pops" Ferre.
Gripping a game-ending foul-tipped third strike off the bat of Marlins shortstop Walt Weiss, Natacha Millan threw off her catcher's mask and raced out to the mound, whooping for joy and leaping into the arms of a surprised but ecstatic Bruce Kaplan.
Opening day starter Alex Penelas had a rocky outing, giving up four runs on eleven hits in three-and-two-thirds innings of work. In a fourth-inning flurry of wildness, Penelas walked five consecutive Marlins batters and beaned Orestes Destrade before Movers skipper Arthur Teele made the call to the bullpen for Sherman "The Dean" Winn.
Forkballer Winn pitched four-plus brilliant innings of relief for the victory, striking out nine and walking only two while scattering six hits.
Penelas stormed off the mound and was spotted later in the clubhouse, breaking a water cooler.
Stopper Kaplan, known to teammates as "Stretch," hurled an inning of shutout ball in the ninth to earn the save.
A dour Marlins manager Rene Lachemann was curt in a postgame interview with reporters. "They play dirty," Lachemann fumed. "Where'd they get the money to buy all that gear, anyhow?"
Ferre swatted homers in each of his three at-bats, a team record. He had his problems at third base, however, losing two infield pop-ups in the sun and booting four routine grounders, all in the same inning. To a chorus of boos, Teele lifted Ferre for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh.
Commented Ferre after the game: "It's Arthur's team. He's the manager."
"I'm just happy to be here. We all gave 110 percent," said center fielder Buddy Burke, affectionately snapping a wet towel at the Movers' bat boy, former Metro commissioner Joe Gersten.
Gersten's uniform bears the number 93-23444, a reminder of his days spent at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. "It kinda grew on me," said the bat boy.
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During the seventh-inning stretch, Marlins mascot "Taffy" was chased from the field by the Movers' own cheering squad, nicknamed The Shakers.
At press time, no further contests had been announced by the county squad. "We're not playing any road games," said Teele. "Pops hocked the team bus."
Babe Ferguson said the club has designated Larry Hawkins to draw up a tentative schedule. "I talked privately to Art," said Ferguson. "He's toying with the idea of scrimmaging against the Dolphins in September. If you count him and Gersten, that's only fourteen players. But the guy is determined to try iron-man football."
New Times staff writers Steven Almond, Todd Anthony, Tom Austin, Greg Baker, Jim DeFede, Kathy Glasgow, Lynn Kaufman Mitchel, Kirk Semple, Bob Weinberg, and Stan Yarbro contributed to this report.