MIAMI – Excited to be in the Miami Marlins' new ballpark, All-Star closer Heath Bell trotted happily across the outfield grass, the entire team from Florida International University following close behind.
Bell had invited the Panthers to join the Marlins during pregame warmups.
He was less hospitable once the game began, pitching a perfect fourth inning in his Marlins debut to help their split squad win 5-1.
Even so, Bell made some new friends with his pregame gesture to the Panthers.
"It was just spur of the moment," said Bell, whose reputation for zany behavior preceded him in Miami. "I was really excited we were in a major league stadium, a beautiful ballpark. I ran over there and said, 'Hey guys, what are you doing? What don't you come stretch with us?' Spring training is always a grind, so if we can bring some fun and laughter, great.
"If any of my teammates thought that was crazy and they weren't too sure about it," he added with a smile, "get used to it."
Bell, a three-time All-Star, was acquired during a December spending binge that made the Marlins playoff contenders as they move into a new home.
They played their first game in the ballpark Tuesday, beating the University of Miami. With the retractable roof closed for the second consecutive night, Emilio Bonifacio hit the lone home run.
Bonifacio, who has six homers in 412 career at-bats, said he was surprised his drive cleared the fence. He took it as a good sign for teammates Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, Hanley Ramirez and Logan Morrison.
"I'm really happy for Mike and Hanley and LoMo, because they hit homers," Bonifacio said. "I think it's going to be easy for them if I can hit a homer."
During batting practice Stanton hit two homers onto the concourse in left field, a poke of at least 450 feet. In the game he went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and double play grounder.
Because of the roof and windows beyond left field that can be opened, there are many variables in determining whether the stadium is a hitters' park, Stanton said.
"All that is going to affect the ball in different ways," he said. "It depends what the weather's like, the time of the season. It's going to take some time to figure it out."
Ricky Nolasco made his first spring training appearance, allowing one hit and no walks in three scoreless innings. He threw 31 pitches, 22 for strikes.
Newcomer Jose Reyes twice handled difficult grounders at shortstop to rob the Panthers of a hit.
Major League Baseball, concerned about player safety, ordered Florida International to use wood bats instead of the customary aluminum models for collegians.
"I was kind of bummed out," Bell said. "I wanted to hear a ping."
The game was the fourth in two days for new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who has been shuttling between the new ballpark and the Marlins' spring complex 100 miles north in Jupiter, Fla.
"Feel sorry for my coaches," Guillen said. "I make more money than them."
The Marlins won't be back in their new ballpark until April 1-2, when they face the New York Yankees in a pair of exhibition games. Bell said he doubts he'll invite the Yankees to join the Marlins when they stretch.