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Fans celebrate Marlins’ World Series berth

October 15, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ Florida Marlins fans came out of hiding Tuesday as the 5-year-old team won the National League pennant.

``This is for you, South Florida! This is for all of Florida! This is the first time the World Series is in Florida! Enjoy the moment!″ Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga said in Atlanta as he celebrated the win.

The Marlins, who have been disappointed with attendance during their best season, defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-4 to capture their first NL title.

``It’s amazing _ nobody ever thought that the Marlins would come this far in five years,″ said Richard Bennett, who watched the game with about 50 others in a sports bar in suburban North Miami.

Bennett said he’s a regular at Pro Player Stadium, as did many of the hundreds of fans who turned out at bars festively adorned in teal to root for their team.

Huizenga, who spent nearly $100 million to make the Marlins a contender this season, hasn’t been happy with attendance.

Florida has averaged 29,555 per game _ a 36 percent increase over last season, but not enough, according to Huizenga. The billionaire businessman, who also owns the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers, claims to be losing $30 million a season on his baseball investment.

Huizenga has put the team up for sale and is planning sharp reductions in payroll in the offseason.

``I’m not even thinking about it,″ Huizenga said when asked after the game whether he would reconsider selling. ``We’ll have to think that thing through later.″

Fans, who seemed to discover the winning Marlins late in the season, were happy to claim them as their own.

``I’m so proud of the Marlins. They put together this team this year and now, here we are,″ said Pedro Mounier, of Davie.

Mounier was among more than 500 people in a suburban Fort Lauderdale sports bar. The bar crowds seemed to get louder with every out and every strike in the ninth inning.

Not all fans were late on the bandwagon. Michael Cano, of Miami, said he and several friends pooled money to buy season tickets, and he’s glad.

``I was a committed fan,″ he said. `` I had a fantastic time this season. I rediscovered baseball.″

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