from the LA Times

Florida Marlins bring on a heavy-hitting cheerleading squad

Miami Marlin Manatees

David Adame / For the Los Angeles Times

Meet the Manatees, the Florida Marlins’ newest cheering squad, practicing for their debut at Monday’s season opener. The 16-man troupe is Major League Baseball’s first plus-size male squad.

The Manatees, Major League Baseball’s first plus-size, all-male cheer team, get ready to thrill on opening day. Really.

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. — Robert Ramos bumps when he should grind. If he’s supposed to walk like an Egyptian, he gets down in a low swagger. With Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” blaring, Ramos isn’t sure which way that is.

Even when telling a joke about his lack of dancing prowess, his timing is off.

“My girlfriend says that if it wasn’t for no rhythm, I wouldn’t have any rhythm at all,” he says, furrowing his brow when that doesn’t sound right.

But Ramos and 15 other men will be dancing before an expected 45,000 fans at the Florida Marlins’ home opener Monday at Dolphin Stadium. They are the Manatees, Major League Baseball’s first plus-size male cheerleaders.

The Marlins are hoping the squad — which is named after endangered marine mammals that resemble pale walruses without tusks — will bring fans into the park. Despite two World Series championships in its 15-year existence, the National League East team had the lowest average game attendance in the majors last year, fewer than 17,000. It posted a disappointing 80-82 season amid rumors, since squelched, that the team was for sale.

The idea was to connect with fans who are most comfortable watching baseball on a couch near a beer cooler. So when Marlins marketing executives posted a notice on the team website and held tryouts, there were no upper or lower limits on weight.

The chosen Manatees tip the scales at 225 to 435 pounds.

“There are more people who look like them than have those perfect bodies,” says Sue Friedman, a charter member of the Marlins Fan Club.

But can manatees learn to dance? 

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