SUNRISE, Fla. - Derek Dietrich is a hockey fan at heart.
"I grew up on an ice rink, I was a rink rat as a kid," he said.
As a kid growing up in Cleveland, OH, the Miami Marlins second baseman admits to spending quite a bit of time hanging around his local ice rink, thanks in large part to his sister, Dawn, who would later go on to become a professional figure skater.
"If I wasn't on the baseball field after school, I was on an ice rink," said Dietrich. "I spent many, many hours out there. I never really played on an organized team, but I used to skate all the time and mess around out there."
As part of the third-annual Marlins Night, Dietrich, as well as fellow Marlins players Tom Koehler, JT Realmuto and Dee Gordon, were the guests of honor as the Florida Panthers battled the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at the BB&T Center.
"It's important to show support," Dietrich said of the event. "I appreciate great athletes, athleticism and professionals. [The Panthers] come to our park and kind of see what we do and then we come here, take it all in, and see what they do."
In addition to dropping the ceremonial first puck, the four Marlins players in attendance also signed autographs, snapped photos and had a chance to meet with several Panthers players, including team captain Derek MacKenzie.
"At the end of the day, it's about winning and fans," Dietrich said. "That's why we're here. We want to try and get as much support as we can leading up to the season. We want to show our faces and support another Florida team."
With Spring Training fast approaching, the Marlins are counting on young hitters like Realmuto, who hit .303 last year, to provide some offensive pop as the team looks to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003.
"We're getting excited," said Realmuto, who thinks his skills as a catcher might translate into some talent in between the pipes. "We've got Fan Fest coming up this weekend, so hopefully we get a lot of fans out for that, you know, meet-and-greet everybody and get to know all the fans. Then we head out to Jupiter for Spring Training and get going."
As for Dietrich, who had career highs in hits (98) and RBI (42) last season, the 27-year-old veteran joked that he might have to pick up a few fighting tips from one of Florida's enforcers after leading the National League with 24 hit by pitches in 2016.
"If I get any more hit by pitches this year, I'm going to learn how to fight," he said.
In honor of the late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, five of the No. 16 jerseys worn in memoriam during the Panthers' home opener were also up for auction throughout Thursday's game, with a portion of the proceeds from each sale going directly to Fernandez's charity, the JDF16 Foundation.