December 3, 2022

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'Start your engines and play ball': Leclerc visits loanDepot park

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MIAMI — Jazz Chisholm Jr. found some competition in the speed department Tuesday night when Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc stopped by loanDepot park for a game between the D-backs and the Marlins. Leclerc, who races for Ferrari, is in town for the Miami Grand Prix, which is this weekend at the Miami International Autodrome. 

Prior to first pitch, Leclerc played catch with outfielder Avisaíl García and took pictures with him, principal owner Bruce Sherman and reliever Steven Okert, who is an F1 fan. Southpaw Jesús Luzardo and reliever Anthony Bender joined the group soon after. When it came time for the national anthem, Leclerc stood along the third-base line with the Marlins.

It was then a meeting of the superstars, with Chisholm and Leclerc exchanging gear: Chisholm presented Leclerc with a white Marlins jersey with No. 97 (Leclerc’s birth year) and his name on the back, while Leclerc gave Chisholm a long-sleeved Ferrari shirt with No. 16 (his car number).

As the Marlins took the field for the top of the first inning, Leclerc pronounced to the crowd, “Let’s start your engines, and play ball!”

“I’m impressed,” said Leclerc, who was attending his first baseball game. “It’s so big. I saw it a few times on TV, never in real life. It already looks huge on TV, but even bigger in reality. Just to discover the sport. I don’t know much about it. So, first experience for me tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Monaco native enters the weekend atop the F1 driver standings. Germany’s Max Verstappen (second) and Mexico’s Sergio Pérez (third) of Red Bull are scheduled to appear at Wednesday’s homestand finale. On Monday night, Great Britain’s George Russell (fourth) went to Game 1 of the NBA playoffs between the Heat and Sixers.

“For me, it’s incredible,” Leclerc said of Miami. “The place is incredible. It’s my first time in Miami, first day. I’ve been around the city a little bit, and you can see that they’ve done everything right for it to be a huge event, just like it is always the case in the United States. American people in general are so passionate about sports, and to now have a second race week, in Miami especially, is going to be huge. So I hope we can have a good weekend and put a good show for the fans.”

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