MIAMI -- Before the festivities and ballgame got under way on Wednesday night, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria made a declaration.
The 2012 season, the franchise's first at Marlins Park, is being dedicated to the fans of Miami and South Florida.
"We are dedicating this season to our fans," Loria said. "We are grateful to them. We appreciate them. I think that's the right thing to do."
The Marlins on Wednesday night had a gala grand opening to their sparkling retractable-roof ballpark.
For more than a decade, three different Marlins owners struggled to get a baseball-only facility for the franchise that joined the big leagues in 1993.
Now that the club has a new home and a new beginning, the organization is thankful to its loyal supporters.
"This whole process has been about the fans," Marlins president David Samson said. "The whole long saga of getting the ballpark was always about our fans and our guests. Now, it's up to them to enjoy it. Enjoy their season and enjoy their park."
At the start of their pregame ceremony, former Marlins standouts Mike Lowell and Jeff Conine raised the championship flags for the 2003 and 1997 seasons, respectively.
The Marlins brought in boxing legend Muhammad Ali on a cart with Loria to cap off the pregame ceremonies, as fans chanted "Ali, Ali!"
Wednesday's game against the Cardinals is being televised on ESPN, marking a rare appearance for the Marlins on national TV.
"We think that once this ballpark and this team are showcased, they'll be coming to us for a lot of games," Loria said. "It's special."
At least for the first game of the new season, the Marlins and city of Miami are on display.
"Tonight, I'm excited for people here watching this game and all over the world," Samson said. "They're getting to see what a great city Miami is. And for all the fans here to enjoy what Miami is.
"This is a big step. This is what this market has never had, its own ballpark. Now we have it. We have a team on the field we expect to be good, so it should be an interesting confluence of events creating some championships and excitement."
Hanley, Reyes excited to start new era together
MIAMI -- Since the start of Spring Training, they've been inseparable. So it was fitting they gave their pregame news conference together on Wednesday at Marlins Park.
Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez and shortstop Jose Reyes have bonded quickly, on and off the field.
Any questions about how they would get along were quickly erased early in Spring Training.
During Spring Training, they regularly played PlayStation together. They both dyed their hair red-orange, one of the team's bright new colors.
"There were a lot of rumors out there, but I was just getting ready for this day," Ramirez said. "We're here together. We're here for our city, our teammates, for everybody."
Ramirez agreed to move to third base after the Marlins signed Reyes to the richest contract in club history -- six-years, $106 million.
Reyes is one of the main pieces the Marlins added in an offseason that included the hiring of manager Ozzie Guillen, as well as the signings of Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.
"This year, we pretty much got a little bit of everything," Ramirez said. "Getting Jose, Heath, Buehrle and Ozzie ... we've got some winning players. They like to win. Add them to what we got before, it's pretty good. We got the energy. Around the clubhouse, everybody is together. Everybody is smiling. This year, everybody is together."
For all the fanfare over the new ballpark, Ramirez hopes the fans pay closer attention to the team than the building.
"This city and this organization has been waiting for this moment for a long, long time," Ramirez said. "For them, the dream came true. For us, it's unbelievable to be here and to be part of this, and be part of history. We're ready for it. We're ready to get this game out of the way, so there are no more distractions and we can move forward."
Reyes will have the distinction of being the first Marlin player to bat.
What does he expect when he steps in to face St. Louis' Kyle Lohse in the first inning?
"I think it's going to be exciting," Reyes said. "I hope I can help my team, get on base and run right away and put this team in position to win this game tonight."
Ceda's surgery postponed to next week
MIAMI -- Marlins reliever Jose Ceda, originally scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery on Tuesday, had the date pushed to next week.
"There was still some inflammation in the elbow," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.
The surgery, which will be performed by Dr. James Andrews, is expected to take place sometime next week.
Ceda, a hard-throwing right-hander, was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday.
Ceda was enjoying a strong Spring Training, and he was in position to make the Opening Night roster. But his arm tightened after throwing two innings against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on March 22.
Ceda has a ligament tear that will require reconstructive surgery. He will miss the entire season, and the team is hopeful he will return in 2013.
Estefan instrumental in Marlins Park show
MIAMI -- Grammy Award-winning producer Emilio Estefan was a force behind the pregame entertainment on Wednesday night at Marlins Park.
Estefan produced the show that featured a video and on-field tribute to Miami. The new Marlins theme song, Marlins Tonight, also made its debut prior to the first pitch, and the national anthem, sung by legendary musician Jose Feliciano, also highlighted the pregame show.
Estefan is among the most revered producers in the music industry, and one of Miami's most celebrated residents.
Just like everybody else, Miami players are wondering who will be the first Marlin to hit a home run at the new ballpark. Whoever it is will have the distinction of setting off the colorful 75-foot home run structure beyond the wall in left-center. Jose Reyes says his money is on Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez believes Giancarlo Stanton will be the first to set the display in motion.
Fifth starter Anibal Sanchez is set to make his season debut on Monday at Philadelphia. As a final tuneup, Sanchez pitched seven innings in an Minor League game at the team's Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. The outing went well.
The Marlins have two Hall of Fame radio voices, and Wednesday was historic for them. For Dave Van Horne, Marlins Park will be the 52nd different stadium in which he's called a game. For Felo Ramirez, the building will be his 61st stadium.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.