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Reflecting on 26 seasons as the Marlins mascot and making the case for keeping him with the franchise long term."What’s been longer than the government shutdown? The baseball offseason.Fish Stripes recently learned about the Marlins’ plan to have FanFest this year on Feb. 9 Ivan Nova Jersey , the week before the team officially reports to Jupiter for the start of spring training and finally begins preparation for the 2019 campaign.That news got us thinking about all the changes that have hit the franchise by storm. Those that know baseball know it’s changing for the better. Chip Bowers, Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman are focused on improving the fan experience with Marlins Park renovations, friendlier food and ticket prices, and eventually, a consistent winning team.But understandably, many fans already lost hope years ago. They’ve seen many faces come and go through South Florida and no success to show for it—the playoff drought is at 15 years and counting.The one stable “face of the franchise” since 1993? Billy the Marlin.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsThat face is expected to get a makeover for the new season, according to SiriusXM host Craig Mish:His responsibilities will remain the same—Billy is heavily involved with the community during the holidays and in general. He brings energy to game day and gives personal attention to as many children as possible.As Billy “adjusts” to a new phase of his baseball career, we reflect on what he’s done so far...Billy the Marlins circa 1993Original owner H. Wayne Huizenga had his reasons for choosing Marlins as the franchise’s nickname and mascot. The species is known for its fighting nature and how tough the fish is to catch.Growing up in South Florida you went to Marlins games. You remember the hot muggy days, the tailgate parties in the parking lot, catching a baseball in the bleachers and a tan at the same damn time. Yes sir , those were the days! The Jacuzzi, the Manatees, the girls.Like a good pal, Billy has seen it all with you.Remember when Hanley kicked the baseball into left field and was walking after it? Billy was there. Remember watching utility man Mike Mordecai try on the catcher’s gear? Billy was there, too. When Charlie Hough threw the first pitch, when Counsell scored the game winner in ‘97. Yes, Billy attended even when we said goodbye in 2011. The mascot was a constant at Joe Robbie, Pro Player, Land Shark, Dolphin and Sun Life. (Ironic they had so many names at the last venue Brad Hand Jersey , but can’t sell the naming rights for Marlins Park.)Since 2012, we’ve watched baseball in Little Havana. There has not been the same kind of joy without a World Series run, but the new place has hosted cool events like the World Baseball Classic, and sweeps of the Mets, Braves and Nats.Marlins Park has also seen the rise and fall of Heath Bell, Ozzie Guillen, Dan Jennings, Mike Redmond, David Samson, Jeffrey Loria and most recently “Homer” the center field sculpture. One thing that hasn't changed — that can’t change for Marlins fans— is the connection we all have with Billy. He is the bridge between generations.From the good-hearted pranks to the laughs to the pictures with fans to launching shirts and baseballs into stands and funny interactions with home and visiting team players , Billy is everything you ask for in a mascot and more.The Rally Monkey in Anaheim for the Angels, except BIGGER!Lou Seal for the Giants, but BETTER!Billy didn’t mind when other Marlins would step into the spotlight. Gary Sheffield was once the big fish when he was in town, then Dan Uggla stole his thunder. He sure didn’t seem to mind handing the power triton over to Carlos Delgado during his lone season here and watching Giancarlo Stanton capture an MVP! Six no-hitters happened in his presence, too. Billy has been to more games than dancing Tony from Section 31 bro!! He ain’t going anywhere; he is just getting a makeover to be bigger, better and stronger!Just how the Marlins are preaching #OurColores and a genuine connection to the community, we need #OurMascota/#OurMascot. There’s been no better representative of the franchise over the past 26 years. We are lucky to have him over that green goof the Phanatic or that big head from Flushing we shall not name.Grid View Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports AFP/Getty Images Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPhoto by Marc Serota/Getty Images Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesEvery single one of us reading this article and will share memories one day with our kids! They’ll either be smiling or crying in terror after meeting good ol’ Billy the Marlin at the home games. ESCUCHAME/LISTEN It would be ludicrous—crazy, una locura, te digo—to have the Marlins without Billy. A makeover? Yes! Si! For sure! But to scrap his whole existence during this rebrand is completely ABSURD and OUT OF QUESTION.Last thing they want to do is upset every abuelita listening to Marta Flores on Radio Mambi when Juan Martinez of the Marlins comes up on the show talking in Spanish saying, “No mas Billy.”Billy upgraded to an acrylic head nearly two decades ago.Throw Billy on a diet plan. Put him on Slim Fast for the offseason Tyson Ross Jersey , lower the sugar intake on his coladas. Change his “see-food” diet to plain seafood, a tummy tuck and we should be good to go. Like all of us, he is just evolving. I’m excited to witness 2019 Billy at FanFest next month.Mark your calendars: baseball’s right around the corner. The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw mutually decided to push the deadline for Kershaw’s opt-out to Friday at 1 p.m. PT. Could this mean they’re working out an extension."Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers mutually decided Wednesday to push the deadline for the decision on Kershaw’s opt-out until Friday at 1 p.m. PT. The left-hander had until 9 p.m. PT to decide whether or not to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Dodgers. It sounds as though this would give both sides time to work out an extension of some kind.Back in 2014, Kershaw signed a seven-year deal worth $215 million. The two years left on the contract are worth $65 million. For Kershaw, heading into his age-31 season, could possibly be looking at his last shot at one more large contract.After the World Series, Andrew Friedman said Kershaw expressed interest wanted to remain with LA. Now the waiting game continues on the details.UpdateThe Dodgers have also extended the deadline for the option on infielder David Freese to Friday at 1 p.m. PT. The team holds the option to bring Freese back for 2019 with a reasonable price of $6 million.The 35-year-old hit .385/.489/.641 in 19 games with Los Angeles after being acquired at the August 31 waiver deadline. Freese was also 8-for-22 in the postseason, including 5-for-12 in the World Series.
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