MIAMI -- Miguel Villon worked at Marlins Park on Opening Night, but that didn't compare to the experience he had Wednesday at the team's new venue.
Villon, a visually impaired 18-year-old, and a group of 15 other teenagers from Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired visited Marlins Park for a special touching tour of the stadium with the Marlins Foundation.
"It's an awesome experience," Villon said. "As an employee for the stadium, you didn't really see that much; it was just work, work, work. Now you actually get to see behind the scenes, go out on the field. It was awesome."
Miami Lighthouse is a center that has provided vision rehabilitation and eye health services to help promote independence, educate and conduct research for the last 80 years. The hands-on tour included a walk around the warning track, where the students spoke with a member of the park's grounds crew and got to feel the Bermuda grass that makes up the field at Marlins Park. The group entered the Marlins' dugout along the third-base side and got to feel where the players spend time during games.
After the tour concluded, the students and their chaperones, which included 10 instructors and Miami Lighthouse president Virginia Jacko, went to the adjoining Gold Glove and Silver Slugger suites to watch and listen to the game with the auditory assistance of a radio broadcast.
"A blind person can do anything a sighted person does -- they might just do it a little differently," said Jacko, who herself is blind and relies on her guide dog as her eyes. "When we went out on the field and touched the grass, now we have a mental picture of what that grass is like. To go into the dugout and sit where the players sit -- we got a great auditory tour, and I know that the stadium has emphasized helping the blind and disabled enjoy baseball."
As part of the multisensory experience, the students also got to feel and handle game-used equipment, including bats with pine tar, gloves, a catcher's mask, a batting helmet, balls and batting gloves, helping reinforce Miami Lighthouse's teachings -- that it is possible to see without sight.
"It was really amazing that we got to plan this," said Villon, who has been in the Lighthouse program for four years and has the most vision among Wednesday's group. "It's just really awesome for them to have this opportunity to come see a baseball game."
Miami, opponents weigh in on Marlins Park's effect
MIAMI -- All season, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen has told his players and the media not to blame spacious Marlins Park for offensive struggles.
Miami continues to not make any excuses for a lack of run production.
After being shut out in three straight games for the first time in team history, Miami veteran Greg Dobbs summed up the frustration as a "tough stretch."
"We just have got to battle," Dobbs said. "I think everybody is just trying to do what they can, what they're capable of. Sometimes you've got to tip your cap to your opponent."
But has the ballpark been a factor?
Marlins Park is among the biggest in the game. Center field is 418 feet with a high wall. The power alley in right-center is 392 feet, and the distance in left-center is 386 feet. The park plays more favorably down the lines, with the fence 335 feet away in right field and 344 in left field.
At home, the Marlins have scored 217 runs, compared to 210 on the road. But in terms of home runs, Miami has connected on more on the road -- 55 compared to 43.
According to Stats Pass research, Marlins Park ranks 26th in the league in total home runs hit this year with 84. The park also rates 19th in total runs scored, averaging 8.32 per game.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who has a keen eye for hitting, says the ballpark could impact the approaches of players accustomed to belting a lot of home runs.
"If you're a hitter, and you usually hit home runs, it will make you swing harder or make you think about swinging harder," Manuel said. "You've got to just calm down and try to hit the ball hard instead of trying to do too much with it."
Could a big park get into a hitter's head if he has launched his share of 400-foot flyouts?
"Very much so," Manuel said. "I think they might try to put more into their swing. They'll try to actually swing harder. When you start swinging harder, you're more apt to not be in control of your swing."
Manuel said batters may try to muscle the ball, rather than have a free and easy swing.
"Basically, I look at the yard, and it's a big park for nowadays," Manuel said. "But at the same time, it still could be a good hitters' park if you use the whole field. If you hit it real good, it will go."
Ruggiano latest Marlin to leave game with injury
MIAMI -- The Marlins are anticipating Emilio Bonifacio will come off the disabled list on Sunday.
The way things have gone for Miami this year, when one player returns, another tends to go down.
It was again the case during Wednesday's 9-2 win, when Justin Ruggiano was lifted after three innings due to a right oblique intercostal strain.
Ruggiano has dealt with back spasms and the tight oblique for a few days. He said it bothered him during an at-bat against Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 1-0 loss.
The Marlins plan on giving Ruggiano a day or two of rest, and they hope that he will be fine for their four-game series that starts Thursday night in Colorado.
"It's probably a combination of stiff back and, I don't know, changing my swing a little bit," Ruggiano said. "I felt it a couple of days ago. It's just something I've been trying to get through.
"I honestly think, I will need a day or two, hopefully. I'm getting an opportunity and I want to play. I also don't want to be out there and hinder the team. I want to make sure when I'm out there, I'm able to swing 100 percent."
Ruggiano added that he didn't approach manager Ozzie Guillen about being in discomfort.
"I think he could tell," the outfielder said. "I think they've been around the game long enough, they can kind of see. I said something last night to the trainers that I felt it, specifically on the Papelbon at-bat. They could tell today."
Ruggiano felt something grab when he struck out against Philadelphia's Roy Halladay in the third inning. In the fourth, Gorkys Hernandez replaced Ruggiano in center field.
The Marlins are planning to monitor Ruggiano on a daily basis. The outfielder has been one of their most productive hitters, batting .326 with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs.
He had two at-bats against Halladay, striking out both times.
The Marlins are dealing with several injuries of late. Infielder Nick Green has a sprained left thumb. Although he isn't expected to go on the DL, he hasn't been available.
On Wednesday, Bonifacio, on the DL with a sprained left thumb, began his rehab assignment for Class A Jupiter. He is planning on being in the Marlins' lineup on Sunday in Colorado.
Reyes will continue to be aggressive on bases
MIAMI -- Aggressiveness on the bases is part of Jose Reyes' game, and the Marlins have no intention of slowing him down. But the past few games, Reyes has run himself into outs.
On Tuesday night, the shortstop was caught trying to steal second in Miami's 1-0 loss to the Phillies.
And on Monday, he was overly aggressive on the bases in the first inning after lifting a single to right field. Reyes tried to stretch it to a double, and he was caught in a rundown and tagged out.
Miami manager Ozzie Guillen notes that you take the good with the bad with speedsters.
"We're not going to change his game," Guillen said. "We're getting caught in pretty tough spots. By the way we are swinging the bats, we have to continue to run and try to push something, try to make something happen."
Reyes has 28 stolen bases, which is tied for the sixth most in the big leagues. He's also been caught seven times, giving him an 80 percent success rate.
Reyes also was part of a double-steal attempt on Monday. He was trying to swipe second when Justin Ruggiano was thrown out at third base.
"I get ticked when I see there's stuff we've worked on in Spring Training since Day 1 and we're not doing it," Guillen said. "I'm not going to tell them, 'Don't run.' I said that two months ago. We will make mistakes, we will scratch our head like, 'What are we doing?' I saw those two plays [Monday], and that's instructional league things. We got to deal with it, learn from those mistakes. I want the team [to be aggressive]."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.