JUPITER, Fla. -- In the aftermath of last week's tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the local area, state of Florida and country have rallied around the Parkland, Fla., community. On Friday, the Marlins and Cardinals joined in by hosting the school's baseball and softball teams for the Grapefruit
JUPITER, Fla. -- In the aftermath of last week's tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the local area, state of Florida and country have rallied around the Parkland, Fla., community. On Friday, the Marlins and Cardinals joined in by hosting the school's baseball and softball teams for the Grapefruit League opener at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.
The teams, accompanied by their families, arrived at the park around 11 a.m. ET and mingled with Marlins players, coaches, primary owner Bruce Sherman and chief executive officer Derek Jeter.
"When there's tragedy, one thing you realize is communities rally around sports," Jeter told the gathering. "I know when I was in New York playing after Sept. 11, obviously, you will never forget what happened. But at least for three hours a day, we gave people something to cheer for. A lot of times, professional sports teams and sports teams, in general, can help distract people."
To honor the 17 people who lost their lives in the Feb. 14 shooting, there was a 17-second moment of silence before the national anthem.
In warmups, each of the 68 players in Marlins camp wore a black cap with a maroon "SD" on it. All 30 MLB clubs wore similar caps. In batting practice, they wore MSD Strong T-shirts, paying tribute to victims.
"It's really nice to see them supporting us and our school," said Jaclyn McKenna, a senior catcher on the Douglas softball team. "It impacted a lot of people. I'm glad the MLB teams are supporting us."
For the students, being around baseball is part of the healing process.
"It was honestly worse when we couldn't play baseball," Douglas outfielder Ricky Shimko said. "We didn't have baseball to watch. We didn't have baseball to play. We didn't have stuff to think about. We were just at home. Now that things are getting back to normal, teams are inviting us, like the Cardinals and the Marlins. It's great. It's helping us feel better. It's showing we're one big family."
Parkland is about a 30-minute drive from the Marlins' Spring Training home in Jupiter.
"I hope today allows you to have a little light at the end of the tunnel," Sherman said, addressing the students and their families. "I was just talking with Derek Jeter about what we're going to try to do to help the school, both today and in our Major League ballpark. This is the most horrific thing I can ever imagine. ... I hope today gives you a few moments of levity and comfort in what's been a horrific week for you."
Manager Don Mattingly, first baseman Justin Bour and outfielder Cameron Maybin were among the many Marlins who signed autographs, took pictures and interacted with the students.
"It's not just touching one community, it's touching everybody," Mattingly said. "It's a good feeling to be able to do something. There's really no words that can help, but when you know other people are thinking about you and you're not alone, it is a nice gesture on the part of the league."
Shortstop Miguel Rojas has made South Florida home since 2015, settling in Broward County, not far from Parkland.
"We're going to show our support out on the field and use our brand to support South Florida and the people in Parkland," Rojas said. "I've been living in Miami now close to three years, and I feel part of this community. It's important for us to be supportive of those families and those people, because I have a son now, and I know at some point he's going to go to school."
For their Grapefruit League opener, the Marlins also wore a special tribute patch on their jerseys.
"After that happened, this is the least we can do is to show our support," Rojas said. "It's going to be really important for us to show our support. It's really important for us to wear those jerseys and those hats. We're going to wear it with a lot of pride. To the community and South Florida, we're trying to show our support."
Top prospect Lewis Brinson is a Coral Springs, Fla., resident, and Stoneman Douglas was his rival high school.
On Friday, Brinson proudly wore the Stoneman Douglas cap and colors.
"I'm honored to wear something like that to represent what happened," Brinson said. "Obviously, it's for a tragic cause, but it's the least we can do for the community -- to represent them, and for them to know we have their back, and to symbolize that."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.