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| Sports |

Save The Manatees: The Miami Marlins Fire Their Fat Guy Dancing Troupe

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We can understand stiffing taxpayers with a $2.6 billion invoice for a shiny new stadium. We can't even really blame the Miami Marlins for refusing to chip in for millions in parking taxes while dropping nine figures on high-priced free agents. Hey, if our county officials are so inept that you can get away with it, why not?

But firing the jiggly guys who for years have entertained fans for negligible pay? That's just cold.

When the Marlins baseball team moves to Little Havana in the spring, the Manatees -- the team's plus-size male dance troupe -- will not be invited.

The team is trying to keep the decision quiet, but several current and former big dancers confirmed it to Riptide, and one of them even started a Facebook page to try to change the team's mind.

"Save the Manatees" has 147 supporters. "It's cold," says Angel Villarreal, better known as the booty-shaking, 280-pound Chubbalicious. "We stood by them when times were tough and got people to go to the stadium. Now the Manatees are getting the rug pulled out from under them."

We hear the Mermaids -- the Marlins' stripper-esque lady cheerleaders -- are also getting their hot pants revoked. Sean Flynn, the Marlins marketing executive who oversees the troupes, did not return Riptide's call for comment.

The Manatees have been getting down since 2008. A couple of them are classically trained dancers whose voluptuous frames precluded them from traditional gigs. Some, like the 400-pound "Tiny," became pseudo-celebrities at Sun Life Stadium. ("You got to move on with life," says Tiny-- real name Nelson Dean Clark, Jr.-- who is heading to California to train to be a Border Control agent.)

For the first couple of seasons, when the Marlins worked the guys 30 games plus a weekly three-hour rehearsal, they were paid only with a pregame buffet. Later, the team added a nominal payment of $40 to $50 per game.

But the Marlins' unspoken reasoning is clear. Now that it's a true big-league team -- thanks to a royal fleecing of taxpayers -- the bush-league sideshows are being ditched. "We danced at the groundbreaking of the new stadium," says Wesley "Mac" Boozer, formerly the Scottish-themed Manatee. "It's interesting now that it's come to fruition, we've been disowned."

Laments the Manatees' 65-year-old elder statesman, Abraham "Big Rev" Thomas, who used to gyrate his 311-pound frame in a top hat and tails: "I think it's kind of crazy. I thought most of the people enjoyed the show."

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