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Samson pushing for nationally televised first game in 2012

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In a couple of weeks, Marlins president David Samson will head to New York on a mission.


Samson plans to meet with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and discuss the opening of the organization's new ballpark in 2012. Specifically, he is pushing the league to give the inaugural game in the building national attention.


Construction is approaching 70 percent completion, and the Marlins are already looking ahead to 2012 and the unveiling of the 37,000-seat retractable-roof building.


In hopes of attracting a worldwide audience, Samson intends to lobby MLB and ESPN, urging them to make the opening of the new stadium the nationally televised game the day before the rest of the league gets under way.


"I hope the Commissioner will be touring the ballpark soon, because he loves seeing ballparks that are being built," Samson said. "I want him to agree, along with ESPN, that this community deserves to have the entire spotlight of the country on it as the last new ballpark for many years that will be opening.


"It's the beginning of an era, and we'd like to be opening up the season against an NL East opponent the night before the actual season opens. I feel confident that everyone agrees -- ESPN and the Commissioner -- that Miami and all of South Florida deserves this spotlight."


The Marlins have high hopes for their new building, especially in the first few seasons.


The club is hopeful to be a host stadium for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. And the Marlins have been pushing to have the 2015 All-Star Game played in South Florida.


"It's something we expect and something that we talk about," Samson said. "We're definitely aiming for 2015, and we feel like we'd put on a terrific show for all of baseball."


In three weeks, the Marlins will be opening their final season at Sun Life Stadium when they face the Mets on April 1.


When the first pitch of the '11 season takes place, the new ballpark will be about 70 percent completed.


Already, hundreds of seats have been installed in the retractable-roof facility since the first seat ceremony took place on Feb. 15. Before the seats go in, seat brackets also must be in place. Thousands of them have been set.


The scoreboard in the West Plaza also has been installed, and the steel for the second JumboTron replay screen is in place.


"We're excited to have the last Opening Day, and it really is going to be the last Opening Day we're ever going to have in a non-baseball facility," Samson said.


Workers on the project in the Little Havana section of Miami are putting the final touches of the roof in place. Four of the operable roof panels have been constructed.


"We're two weeks away from the final pieces of steel being lifted, which is a monumental accomplishment," Samson said. "There are about 800 people out there, and every day something new is happening."


About the time the 2011 season opens, a concession stand will be completed in the new ballpark.


"We're having meetings to discuss exact menus," Samson said. "We have maps of every concession stand and what will be served where. It's every day, all day, everyone is working hard, and everything is going great."


Fans are encouraged to follow all phases of construction on the new ballpark webcam on www.marlins.com.


Recently, the Marlins announced that they have sold out all 379 premium seats in the Diamond Club. Since then, sales have picked up in other high-end sections behind home plate and along the first and third base sides.


"When the Diamond Club sold out, immediately after that was announced, the other premium seats started to sell even faster because people realized what is happening," Samson said.


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