At last, the city that brought us Heat and Vice may once again be able to claim the Marlins as its own. Renaming South Florida's big league baseball team the Miami Marlins may seem an insignificant footnote to the deal announced last month (and awaiting approval of local government officials) to build a $385 million retractable-roof baseball stadium in downtown Miami, but it was much more. Said Miami—Dade County mayor Alex Penelas, who negotiated the agreement, "No name change, no deal."
These days new or relocating franchises—the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Tennessee Titans—often link their names to as broad a region as possible. The Marlins, however, are following the lead of baseball's Angels, who in 1996 dumped California from their name and adopted that of their host city, Anaheim. That move, too, was linked to a stadium deal. City officials, seeking greater name recognition for their municipality and a closer link to incoming team owner Disney, asked for the switch as a condition for ponying up $30 million toward renovating Anaheim Stadium.
Miami's officials hope the Marlins' name change will rekindle the city's baseball flame ( Miami Marlins was the name of a Triple A team in the 1950s for which Satchel Paige suited up) and ease the way for final approval of the deal. "To us it's an issue of pride, identity with the team and the team clearly being linked to the community," Penelas told SI. "That's important in getting public support."
Fan sentiment, though, has been mixed. A Boca Raton resident told The Miami Herald, "Once you say, ' Miami,' the people of Palm Beach and Broward [counties] may say, 'Who cares?' " But a Davie fan countered, "I'm all for it. They should have been called that in the first place." The tenor of the few Marlins diehards may have been best expressed by this note on the team's official Internet message board: "Just don't call them late for the first pitch on Opening Day!"