3 Floridians glad to be joining Marlins

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MIAMI (AP) — Mat Latos sat in the left-field plaza at Marlins Park as he reminisced about attending the first game in franchise history when he was 5 years old.

A few feet away, Michael Morse shared his memories of going to the same game.

The two new teammates are South Florida natives who grew up Marlins fans, and they joined their favorite team as a result of deals last week. The Marlins also acquired Dee Gordon, a Central Florida native who attended games in Miami as a youngster when his father, former major leaguer Tom Gordon, pitched against the Marlins.

"It's a blessing to be able to play for a team you grew up watching," Latos said. "You take pride in that. This your home turf."

The Marlins held a celebratory news conference Friday to welcome the newcomers. Shortly after the session disbanded, the Marlins' busy front office added two more players, acquiring infielder Martin Prado and right-handed pitcher David Phelps from the New York Yankees for right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first-baseman Garrett Jones and minor league right-handed pitcher Domingo German.

Several hours later, they were at it again, shipping NL comeback player of the year, third baseman Casey McGehee, to San Francisco for a pair of right-handed minor league pitchers, Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo.

Morse, who was born in Fort Lauderdale, was 11 when he sat in the upper deck in right field watching the Marlins' first game in 1993. He remembered the questionable called strike on the franchise's first pitch from Charlie Hough.

"It was a little outside," Morse said with a laugh.

Latos said he went to 15 to 20 games a year as a kid and afterward would chase players outside the stadium seeking autographs.

"I can't express how amazing it is to come home," Latos said.

The right-hander, who further strengthens Miami's solid rotation, was acquired in a trade with the Reds. Gordon, a leadoff hitter and All-Star second baseman, was obtained in a seven-player trade with the Dodgers. Morse, who is expected to play first base and bat cleanup behind Giancarlo Stanton, signed a $16 million, two-year contract as a free agent.

"This is home," Morse said. "This is where I've grown up. This is where my wife's home is. Her family is from here. My family is from here. My soon-to-be first child will be from here. This is unreal."

As Marlins fans Morse and Latos know all too well, the team hasn't been the playoffs since its World Series championship season in 2003. But the newcomers agree the flurry of offseason moves has positioned the Marlins as potential contenders in the NL East.

"They want to win, and they're showing it right now," Morse said — and that was before the trade with the Yankees was disclosed. "This organization is on the rise once again, and I'm so happy to be a part of it."

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