By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Players rounded the bases on new baseball and softball fields in Tropical Park on Saturday, and it was made possible with help from the professionals.

The Miami Marlins, the Miami Marlins Foundation, and Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation all teamed up for an opening day celebration Saturday.

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“Thanks to the Marlins generous contribution, and with the much-needed renovations, we will be able to have more games and introduce more boys and girls to the sport of baseball,” said Maria Nardi, Director for Miami-Dade Parks.

Billy the Marlin takes part in opening day celebration for renovated baseball and softball fields at Tropical Park. (CBS4)

With the opening pitch caught by Billy the Marlin, the fields were officially open to play ball.

“Especially during this pandemic, when we learned open space is a great place to be, parks have become our greatest treasure,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Softball players were the first ones to step up to the plate and give them a test run.

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“Marlins RBI is a program where we provide coaches, equipment, umpires, and fields to youth from our community to allow them to get out and enjoy the great game of baseball and softball,” explained Caroline O’Connor, Chief Operating Officer for the Miami Marlins.

The Miami Marlins, Miami Marlins Foundation and Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation take part in opening day celebration for renovated baseball and softball fields at Tropical Park. (CBS4)

Back in 2018, the plans went into motion. Originally, Marlins RBI were just going to renovate one field, but they saw the need to enhance all of them.

“We completely stripped all the fields, re-graded them, improved all the grass around them, and created a really safe and beautiful place for our children to play,” O’Connor said.

The Marlins donated $170,000 to Miami-Dade County for the four ball fields at Tropical Park, which hosts about 1.5 million visitors annually.

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The Marlins RBI program offers free instructional and competitive summer baseball and softball for teens ages 13-18. They are made up of 25 teams across Miami-Dade and Broward.

Karli Barnett