MIAMI -- As Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Coral Springs gathered between the pitcher's mound and second base following the national anthem to shake hands and pose for photographs on Wednesday at Marlins Park, it was clear this wasn't your regular high school baseball game.Stoneman Douglas defeated district and neighboring rivals
MIAMI -- As Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Coral Springs gathered between the pitcher's mound and second base following the national anthem to shake hands and pose for photographs on Wednesday at Marlins Park, it was clear this wasn't your regular high school baseball game.
Stoneman Douglas defeated district and neighboring rivals Coral Springs, 9-4, in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity made possible by Marlins CEO Derek Jeter.
"It's unbelievable. What better could you ask for than to play in a Major League stadium? It's awesome," said Todd Fitz-Gerald, head coach at Stoneman Douglas, the site of a tragic shooting on Feb. 14 that took 17 lives and injured 17 more.
"I couldn't be more thankful to Derek Jeter and this organization for allowing us the opportunity to come represent Stoneman Douglas here tonight."
Eagles senior second baseman Brandon Auerbach highlighted a five-run second inning with a two-run inside-the-park home run, and junior right-hander Louis Esposito threw six shutout innings.
Fitz-Gerald remembers getting the phone call from Jeter in early March with the invitation.
"It was pretty cool, actually," Fitz-Gerald said. "We were at the locker room in school and we put him on speaker phone. He invited us [to play in the game at Marlins Park], and the kids kind of went crazy, the coaches went crazy. So it was pretty exciting. That was a good time for sure."
"I think if you're a baseball player and you love the game, you're already motivated," Fitz-Gerald added after his club improved to 4-0 in distrcit play. "So if you want to be the best you've got to motivate yourself every day. What motivates you to want to be the best; hard work, right? So don't take things for granted, it could be your last day ever playing, you never know."
Wide-eyed and excited, the Eagles enjoyed the experience.
"They were pretty starry-eyed, it's not very often you get to play on a big league field," said Fitz-Gerald, who told his players to enjoy the opportunity and take it all in. "Let it all hang out.
"It's awesome. When you've got something the kids love to do every day, three hours a day, they can be happy and [have] no stress. Just go out there and do what you do. I think it's awesome. It's great therapy."
Despite the game's outcome, it was still an eye-opening experience for the Coral Springs team as well.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime for these kids," Colts head coach Mike Federman said. "Every kid got his phone out and took pictures."
Federman said that the support from students, the community and across the country has been amazing.
"Everywhere you go, I'm driving, I'm behind somebody, they've got 'MSD' on their car," Federman said. "We've done shirts for them, we've shown our support at our field for them. Other coaches, players, teams, all stepping up to help out.
"We may not like each other on the field, nobody wants to lose, but I think everybody's rallied around and embraced everybody and just been one big family. That's what baseball is."
And that extends beyond the players and coaches. Steve Torres, from nearby Sunrise, Fla., and a member of the Broward Baseball Umpires Association, was one of 20-plus umpires who volunteered for the game, all meeting beforehand to ride together on the same bus. The 20-plus umpires rotated in and out with only home-plate umpire Shawn Lancaster working all seven innings.
"We just want to contribute," Torres said.
That seemed to be the theme of the night.
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com.