Samson: Miami poised to be 'epicenter of baseball'
Marlins president says stars Stanton, Ichiro make club an international attraction
JUPITER, Fla. -- The way Marlins president David Samson sees it, Miami's time has come. Mired in so much uncertainty for so long, the franchise and market are on the cusp of something big.
Signing Giancarlo Stanton to a record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract set in motion the rebranding of the organization. And the Marlins' reach became even more global with the pickup of Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki.
In Stanton, the Marlins have one of the top young talents on the planet. And the 41-year-old Suzuki brings international credibility.
"We need faces of baseball," Samson said. "And Giancarlo is going to be a face of baseball, if not the No. 1 face. He's up to that task. And having him here in Miami, which is a hugely important city for MLB -- globalization of the game is important, and it all happens in Miami. To me, we are poised to become the epicenter of baseball, and that's exciting."
Suzuki signed a one-year, $2 million deal in late January. To recognize the occasion, Samson and other top team officials traveled to Japan to make the announcement.
Samson noted about 90 Marlins games will be televised this year in Japan. In years past, the number was one or two.
"When we went around Japan, people were wearing Marlins stuff," Samson said. "Before that, they never had.
"When you think about where we should be as a market, I think we are finally hitting the runway where we will take off to be an internationally celebrated team."
Commissioner Rob Manfred has made marketing players a priority since taking over for the retired Bud Selig last month.
"When I look at Giancarlo Stanton as the face of our franchise, he's also the face of baseball," Samson said. "That's a very big responsibility. He has so many demands on his time."
Samson has spent a great deal of time with Stanton in the offseason talking about expectations.
"'Don't forget why it's happened,'" Samson told Stanton. "'It's not happening because of your contract. It's happening because of your ability on the field.'
"He is uniquely positioned to keep working hard and not get distracted. He wants to be defined, not by his contract, but by his performance and his team's performance.
"One of the best things about Commissioner Manfred is he had a first 100-day plan. He got a lot done in his first 20 days -- marketing players, getting a connection between players and fans."