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Stoneman Douglas baseball team plays at Marlins Park

Jim Rassol (Sun-Sentinel)

The dream for any kid growing up playing baseball is to one day take the field in a Major League Baseball ballpark.

The players at Stoneman Douglas, less than two months after the Feb. 14 shooting at the school that took 17 lives and injured 17 others, got to take in that full-fledged experience on Wednesday night as Douglas played a district game against Coral Springs at Marlins Park.

Each player and coach for the two teams were introduced individually in a manner that mirrored baseball’s Opening Day festivities. Douglas principal Ty Thompson then threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and the two teams took the field.

“They were pretty starry-eyed. It’s not very often you get to play on a big league field,” Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald said. “How many kids get to say they can do that – unless they become big leaguers?

“I think it’s awesome. It’s great therapy.”

Players appeared on the jumbotron as they came up to bat, their portraits and names left up throughout their at-bats. When Douglas second baseman Brandon Auerbach hit an inside-the-park home run to right field in the second inning, the home run sculpture in left-center under a halfway-open retractable roof was activated.

“The Marlins have been amazing,” said Marnie Auerbach, Brandon’s mother. “From first inviting them up to the opening day of spring training right after the tragedy at the school to being the first team to want to wear our hats, asking us to come down and play a game, the jerseys, they’re rock stars.”

She told NBC 6 after her son’s home run, his first of his high school career: “This is what you want for your kid. This is what you want for this baseball team after everything they’ve gone through.

Douglas ended up improving its District 11-9A record to 4-0 with a 9-4 win. Starter Louis Esposito threw six shutout innings.

The Marlins initially invited Douglas shortly after they had the Eagles over during spring training. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, who was present Wednesday and had students chanting his name, hooked up Fitz-Gerald on a conference call with all his players around him in their home clubhouse and gave him the news.

The predominant color on digital signage surrounding the field was Douglas maroon with some reading “MSD Strong” and others pushing Sunday, April 15 as “Stoneman Douglas Day” at Marlins Park. All Douglas students and faculty get two free tickets when the Marlins host the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Douglas jumped on Springs in the second inning. An error off a grounder off the bat of Ricky Shimko allowed the first two runs to score, Colyn Flynn drove him in with a base hit, and the home run sculpture went off after Auerbach’s two-run homer.

The Eagles added two in the fifth – one on a Shimko triple to center – and another pair in the sixth before the Colts scored four in the seventh with backups playing for both teams.

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