On Tuesday afternoon, the Florida Marlins announced that 2011's slate of promotions will include a game dedicated to their beloved owner Jeffrey Loria. It will be held on Wednesday, April 6, fittingly against Loria's former franchise, the Washington Nationals (Loria owned the team when they were the Montreal Expos. Their subsequent move to Washington and Loria's ownership are not believed to be related.)
The game will begin with a video tribute similar to the one delivered in honour of George Steinbrenner earlier this year. Steinbrenner died on July 13 at the age of 80 after owning the New York Yankees for 37 years. But as Marlins Director of Promotions Everett Wells says, Loria's tribute won't simply be a copy of the former Yankee's owner's.
"Steinbrenner's ceremony certainly informed our thought process going into this", said Wells, "but Jeff's legacy is different. George was a controversial figure who was disliked by a lot of people, so when I watched that montage it made me a little squeamish. I mean, it made him out to be this heroic community builder, so I was just thinking, why are we celebrating the life of this guy who was really a jerk?"
None of those uncomfortable discrepancies apply to Loria, said Matthew Chapman, an area scout for the Marlins who has worked with Loria for over a decade. "Jeff is an outstanding man. During his ownership of the Expos and now the Marlins, he's shown nothing but an extraordinary commitment to the team, the fans, and the community. He wants to build a great baseball team, and he puts his money where his mouth is."
So Loria's tribute, according to Wells, won't carry those same unpalatable overtones that Steinbrenner's did. Wells also stressed the importance of holding a tribute while Loria still owns the team. "We want to celebrate his life while he's still here to see it (the tribute), so he knows that people care and appreciate everything he's done."
The video montage won't be the only part of the festivities though. Any fans attending the game will receive a Jeffrey Loria bobblehead, the first in the Marlins' 2011 series which will also include such luminaries as reliever Rob Dibble, Cubs fan Steve Bartman, and actor Mel Gibson.
|A mock-up of the Jeffrey Loria bobble-head |
that fans will receive on the special day
In the third inning, the traditional "sausage race" - popular in such MLB cities as Milwaukee and Washington (where it's a "president's race") - will be held, with the sausages replaced by Jeffreys Loria, as a nod to Loria's well-known sense of humour. Each of the four caricature-like costumes will depict a different aspect of Loria's personality: the Baseball Fan, the Philanthropist, the Dedicated Father, and the Role Model.
The seventh-inning stretch on the big day will not feature the traditional "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", but instead a special composition commissioned especially for the game and dedicated to Loria, written and conducted by "Star Wars" composer John Williams and performed live in the infield by the Ljubljana Philharmonic of Slovenia accompanied by the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir.
Throughout the game, fans will be given the opportunity to send a text message to the Marlins expressing their gratitude and appreciation towards Mr. Loria. The best and most heartfelt will be chosen to be displayed on the scoreboard.
Finally, the nightly raffle - which is usually a 50/50 draw that rewards the winner with a cash prize - will feature a Jeffrey Loria-centric prize package. The winner will receive a hand-carved bronze bust of Loria, a set of fine bathroom linens embroidered with Mr. Loria's visage, and a special dinner with the man himself, Jeffrey Loria's butler, Mr. Nigel Murdoch.
Everett Wells says he can't believe the idea has never occurred to him until now. "I mean, when you think about sports owners who go above and beyond the call of duty, the list has to start with Jeffrey Loria. This special day is long overdue."