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Feeling Chill? Blue Wahoos Warm Up 2024 Season Ahead With Fish Fest At Ballpark 

Former LSU star and Miami Marlins' No. 1 pick Jacob Berry will be visiting with Blue Wahoos fans on Thursday, Jan. 18 at the 3rd annual Fish Fest at Blue Wahoos Stadium. (Nino Mendez/Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
January 16, 2024

We interrupt this freezing cold snap in Pensacola to bring some warming news. The Blue Wahoos baseball season is now 79 days away as of Wednesday. An early peak into the future will be offered Thursday night in a free event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. when the third annual

We interrupt this freezing cold snap in Pensacola to bring some warming news.

The Blue Wahoos baseball season is now 79 days away as of Wednesday. An early peak into the future will be offered Thursday night in a free event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. when the third annual “Fish Fest” happens at Blue Wahoos Stadium, featuring player autographs, question-answer sessions, on-field activities for kids, information on tickets, plus other benefits.

Two players who figure to be on the Blue Wahoos’ 2024 opening day roster on April 5 – infielder Jacob Berry and pitcher Ike Buxton – will be attending Thursday’s free event, along with Pensacola Catholic grad Jordan McCants, who will begin his second full season in the Miami Marlins minor league system.

Those three will be greeting fans, signing autographs and handling a question-answer session inside the Blue Wahoos clubhouse, led by team broadcaster Erik Bremer.

Berry and Buxton both finished their 2023 seasons with the Blue Wahoos, then played as Marlins’ representatives in the Arizona Fall League during October. Berry was the Marlins’ No. 1 draft pick in 2022 from LSU. He sustained a foot injury in late August and missed the team’s final weeks, including the postseason games.

“It’s a big part of the selection process of who we send to these events… guys that we feel are going to start the year at that specific level,” said Hector Crespo, the Marlins director of minor league operations. “Ike and Jacob are high-character guys, obviously very talented. We wanted to give them a chance to be around in Pensacola, meet the people see the community.

“They both got some time (in Pensacola) last year but I think it’s something different in this kind of event when you meet people truly entrenched in the community and that we are reciprocating the same appreciation and love the fans give to the players.”

Ike Buxton, who joined the Blue Wahoos late in 2023 season, is expected to be part of 2024 rotation and will be attending Fish Fest on Jan. 18 at Blue Wahoos Stadium.Nino Mendez/Pensacola Blue Wahoos

The Fish Fest on Thursday will begin the Blue Wahoos fourth season as the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate. The partnership has been strengthened with connections led by Blue Wahoos owners Quint and Rishy Studer, team president Jonathan Griffith and general manager Steve Brice.

“I can’t say enough good things about that group and how they treat our players,” said Crespo, who is in his ninth year with the Marlins organization. “I think it’s starts at the top. It starts with Quint and Jonathan and Steve. They set such a good precedent for what the organization is about.

“It is one that is built on family and creating an atmosphere where everyone feels valued and loves coming to support the team. It’s an honor to be able to work with them on a daily basis to create an environment that our players love to play in.”

The Fish Fest provides fans the chance to meet three players Crespo believes will be part of the Marlins future.

Berry, 22, an Arizona native, played in 28 games last season with the Blue Wahoos. He batted .248 with five homers and 22 RBI in 123 plate appearances before his injury. Berry began last season with the Beloit (Wisc.) Sky Carp, the Marlins High-A affiliate where he hit .227 with four homers and 37 RBI in 79 games.

His progression continued in the Arizona Fall League where he batted .265 in 17 games with two homers, seven RBI.

“I feel if there is one word to describe Jacob’s year, it’s perseverance,” Crespo said. “Unfortunate that he had the injury and couldn’t be with (Blue Wahoos) during the playoff run, but I think he left off in a really good spot and it was cool to see him get healthy and get back and go to Arizona and play really well.

“We saw some of the same characteristics he was showing on the field during the season carry over into the Fall League. I’m really excited to see how he comes into (training) camp and can hit the ground running.”

Pensacola's Jordan McCants signs an autograph for a young fan at the 2023 Fish Fest. McCants will be attending this year's Fish Fest on Jan. 18 prior to beginning his second full season in Marlins' organization.Bill Vilona/Pensacola Blue Wahoos

Buxton, 23, a Sun Valley, Idaho native, made his Double-A debut on Sept. 13, throwing four scoreless innings in his only start with the Blue Wahoos. He then made three starts in the Arizona Fall League.

“I would say he was one of our most improved pitchers over the year,” Crespo said. “This guy has really good stuff. He pounded the strike zone, competed well, was very mature in all the other areas.

“He fielded his position well, knows how to hold runners. We saw the uptick as we got him into the starting rotation (with Beloit and Pensacola last year) and this is a guy we are very excited about.”

McCants played in 111 games last season for the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Marlins Low-A affiliate, helping the team win its first Florida State League championship in the 25-year franchise history.

By comparison, McCants played only 50 games a year ago for the Marlins’ Florida Complex League (rookie level) team.

“I think for young guys, the first thing, and a big key factor for their development, is being able to play 100-plus games,” Crespo said. “I think that’s a big step. I think it’s very tough as an 18 or 19 year-old kid to be able to play that amount of games.

“Jordan was able to do that for the first time able to keeping his body healthy and grind through a long season. I think a big key from him now is physically developing even more, which will be the focus in spring training.”

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: Third Annual Blue Wahoos “Fish Fest”

WHO: Two of Miami Marlins’ Top 30 prospects, infielder Jacob Berry and pitcher Ike Buxton, will be joined by Pensacola Catholic High grad Jordan McCants, who completed his first full minor league season as Marlins prospect.

WHEN: Thursday, general public access is 5:30-7 p.m. Blue Wahoos verified season-ticket holders will have special access beginning 5 pm,

WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium.

ADMISSION: Free. Fans asked to use online ticket link at www.bluewahoos.com/fishfest.

FOOD: A concession storefront will be open on the third-base side for food purchases. Season-ticket holders may bring their 2023 popcorn and soda containers for a $2 refill.

FORMAT: Players will sign autographs on second-level concourse, beginning at 5:30. A question/answer session that will begin at 6 p.m. with team owner Quint Studer, then team president Jonathan Griffith, plus the players, will occur from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. inside the Blue Wahoos clubhouse on the first baseside and thus allowing fans a visit inside the locker room. The Blue Wahoos Bait and Tackle Team Store will be open for shopping. Fans will be allowed to walk on the field for photos as well as inflatables will be set up for kids to play on the field.