Thu, Oct 23, 2003 - Page 20 News List

There's Yankees fans all over Florida


South Florida's favorite team is in the World Series. It's just not clear whether that team is the Marlins or the New York Yankees.

There are a lot of transplanted New Yorkers around here rooting for the Bronx Bombers. There is also a lot of affection for the Yankee pinstripes because of all the years the team held spring training in nearby Fort Lauderdale.

"I was born and raised a Yankees fan, so there's no reason not to stick with them," said Larry Maroto, 32, of West Palm Beach, who moved south from New York years ago.

Thousands of Yankee fans proudly showed their allegiance in enemy territory Tuesday as the series shifted to Miami's Pro Player Stadium.

"It's definitely a Yankee crowd down here," said Charles Cerrito of Coconut Creek, a comic book show promoter who moved from New York two years ago. "Think about it: They've drawn an average of 17,000 all year. Now there's 65,000 seats sold out. Do the math."

Tickets for all three Florida home games in the World Series sold out in less than three hours last week. The first man to get tickets at the Marlins' downtown Miami souvenir store waited 36 hours in line -- because he is a Yankee fan.

Florida players were not surprised by the wave of support for the visitors.

"There's going to be a lot of Yankee fans here," Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell -- himself a former Yankee -- said Monday. "The Yankees have a following around the whole country."

Florida receives a steady stream of transplanted New Yorkers -- an estimated 300,000 in the last five years alone.

Moreover, the Yankees have made Florida their spring training home for 88 years, including 35 straight seasons in Fort Lauderdale -- about a 20-minute drive from Pro Player. The Yankees have trained in Tampa since 1996.

No team drew more fans to a single game at Pro Player in the 1999 and 2001 seasons than the Yankees, with crowds for those visits nearly three times larger than typical for Marlins home games.

"We know everywhere we go, we have our share of fans," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We certainly know that there are a lot of transplanted New Yorkers in South Florida."

Not all transplanted New Yorkers, though, are Yankee fans.

Daytona Beach businessman and Yonkers, New York, native Greg Smith, 50, had tickets to Tuesday night's game. A Floridian since 1971, he said he is squarely behind the Marlins.

"I grew up a Mets fan and a Giants fan because of Willie Mays," Smith said. "I support anything in the state of Florida. I left New York and those teams behind a long time ago."

Marlins president David Samson himself disproves the theory that New Yorkers can't change their pinstripes. He grew up in Manhattan -- a Yankee fan.

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