Part VI: Marlins Park
(AKA: If It Is Broke… Fix It!)
Oh, that trip down to Miami. After getting dropped off at the bus terminal in St. Pete, the Sun was shining and it was a lovely day. Then the rains came… again. This was becoming a very common theme throughout this southeast portion of my travels. Without going into too much detail, I was very delayed arriving because of the weather, and our bus driver getting lost in horrible Miami traffic because the Greyhound station had changed to a new location that week! Getting the rental car for this place wasn’t much better. After a very tough time getting around and finally getting to my hotel room (the first and only time I’d stay in a hotel during this leg of the trip), I was ready to rest and get ready for baseball the following day.
Ballpark 20: Marlins Park, elevation 3 feet
The game: Dodgers @ Marlins on June 26, 2015
After eating some good food and checking out a couple sites in downtown Miami, I made my way through a residential area and found myself beneath a monstrous ballpark. Marlins Park towers over everything else in that mostly residential area. In fact, I had to park my rental car on the front yard of a house about two blocks away to save money. It was only $10, but it was very close to the park, and is way less than any of the other lots (or houses) around. The whole layout around the park is very interesting. One side of the stadium even has the old letters from the old Orange Bowl that used to be there many years ago.
Ticket prices: Marlins Park doesn’t fill up at all. As a result, the team decided to make the lower bowl look more full and not sell any of their “vista” tickets for any games. In fact, that entire upper “vista” level of the ballpark is completely closed off to fans visiting there. That limits the types of tickets fans can buy at Marlins Park, unfortunately. The field level seats are the main seats one can buy there, and those tickets are not cheap, especially when the Dodgers are in town. Luckily, I found a single seat in the home plate box behind the Dodgers’ dugout for only $31 on StubHub! I was seated in home plate box 9, row 5… amazing seats for such a low price. Retail tickets there are not cheap. StubHub may be your best bet to find good tickets, but keep an open ear on the radio! Free tickets are often given away, I’ve heard.
Before entering the stadium, I made sure to visit the team shop and see what they had in terms of hats. They had plenty of stuff for the Miami Marlins. However, I didn’t see anything with a Florida Marlins logo on it, or any throwbacks from that time period. I was highly disappointed in that because I was thinking of getting both a current Marlins hat and a teal throwback hat. I settled on the on-field New Era cap for $35, which wasn’t too bad.
The first thing I noticed going into the stadium was the long uphill pathways to even get into the stadium. Then you are led in through glass doors into the main part of the park. The air conditioning blasted my face as I entered, and it felt really good. As far as climate control, Marlins Park does an excellent job of keeping the air as fresh as possible while maintaining a cool temperature inside. I checked out a little bit of batting practice only to have a couple balls fly way over my head while the Dodgers were at bat. After BP, I examined the Bobblehead Museum in the third base side of the main concourse. There were bobbleheads from every team in this giant glass case, including the Florida Marlins!
While still going around, I made it a point to examine that large statue in center field that goes crazy when a Marlins player hits a home run. Up close, it looks as unique as one would think. Technically, this is a “Home Run Sculpture” by Red Grooms. From the back, I could see some of the gears that move the giant fish around and it’s very fascinating.
The food: For this game, there were happy hour prices before 7pm. Because I was driving, I didn’t purchase any beer. I wanted to save money on this game and just opt for three $1 hot dogs and a huge souvenir soda that was also refillable for free! All told, I spent around $11. The hot dogs were good for a dollar and getting refills in south Florida is a huge plus.
The fans: Where are the Marlins fans? Remember how I said that tickets tend to be more expensive when teams like the Dodgers are in town? That’s because most of the fans that showed up to the game were Dodger fans! There were thousands of fans wearing Dodger blue at this game, so I actually felt right at home. Even around me, most of those fans were locals that migrated from southern California. However, there were also a few fans like me who made the trip from SoCal all the way to south Florida. When I would tell those Dodger fans about my trip, most of them had this response, “Wow! That’s so cool! You’ve been everywhere… we want to party with you!” I still don’t know how to respond to that!
One other interesting feature of Marlins Park that I have yet to mention is the fish tank behind home plate. I kid you not, there are two tanks with live fish embedded within the backstop! These aren’t just goldfish, either. These are real exotic fish that look beautiful.
The game: The 1st inning saw the fish get on the board first when Dee Gordon hit a single, then blazed through the bases on a stolen base and a couple ground outs. The Marlins scored, and the hundreds of Miami fans there cheered. Yey. The place really got loud in the top of the 2nd when Adrian Gonzalez hit a single, and then Scott Van Slyke drove them both in with a towering home run. The roar was near deafening from where I was. Being behind the Dodgers dugout, I was around a bevy of True Blue fans. With that booming shot, the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead. Two innings later, the Dodgers loaded the bases for Jimmy Rollins, and he drove in two runs with a single to right field. At this point, the Dodger fans were as loud as ever. From our section, there was a VERY loud “Let’s Go Dodgers” chant going on through the rest of that half-inning. I went back and watched that portion of the game, and the cheers can easily be heard on TV. At least the Dodger fans came out for this one!
Things got really interesting during the 5th
inning onward as the scoreboards started doing something weird. They flickered and showed lime green for a split second, and then would continue flickering until they finally went out an inning later. Yes, you read that right, the scoreboards and the fancy new jumbotron all went black. Everything was black for a good few minutes, including the ribbon boards wrapping around the infield. At this point of the game, the umpire had to manually tell everyone what the counts were. They went out just as the Marlins finished their half of the 5th
inning. This massively affected the Dodgers while they were at bat the next inning. Don Mattingly and the rest of the coaching staff were furious. They wondered what the heck was going on.
It only got worse from there. When the ribbon boards were finally working later in the A.J. Ellis at-bat, whoever was running the score boards at Marlins Park had the counts incorrect. During that long at-bat, the ribbon board continually said it was a 2-2 count when it was actually a full count. The home plate umpire didn’t make it clear to everyone that it was a full count. However, I was paying close attention, and I knew it was a full count. Finally, when ball four was actually thrown, there was some confusion until Ellis was awarded first base. This drew a few confused boos and fans had no clue what happened. Oh, but it gets better. On a strikeout call for the Marlins, the ribbon boards said 3-1 when it was actually 2-2. The next pitch resulted in a strikeout looking.
To me, this is completely unacceptable, especially for a new place like Marlins Park. They have had time to work out all the kinks, and to have all the boards mess up can really affect the game. There really should be some kind of manual (or even mechanical) scoreboard at all parks just in case the electricity goes out. We went decades without fancy jumbotrons, and the game flourished. Furthermore, to have the scoreboard operator mess up the counts like that is beyond unacceptable, it’s downright unprofessional. Having done scoreboard operating in the past, I know it can be difficult at first. But if you’re working in the big leagues, there is no room for error. Poor showing by game ops at Marlins Park.
One big story that happened during the game was Giancarlo Stanton seeming to be in some discomfort after striking out in the 6th inning. During his final at-bat in the 9th inning, I could tell something wasn’t right. When he finally swung and missed for another strikeout, he bent down in pain, and slowly walked to the dugout. At first, I thought it might be a wrist injury. It proved to be much worse as he sustained a serious hand injury that will sideline him for weeks. What a terrible way to go out.
At least the game ended in a very convincing Dodgers victory, so any of those minor quibbles due to the inept scoreboards didn’t have much of an effect on the final score. Clearly, the Dodgers were the far superior team and showed why they could win it all. As soon as the game ended, I let out some cheers and took plenty of pictures. As I was down by the field, this Dodgers fan named David brought down a California flag and had me take pictures with it. Soon, more Dodger fans huddled around me, and we cheered and celebrated like crazy! It was a very fun time conversing with fans, telling them my story. Soon after, the roof opened up for the fireworks show! This was a solid show that incorporated the colorful home run sculpture in center field. Great job on that, at least.
I said goodbye to Marlins Park and was ready to head out of Miami. It’s a truly crazy city with a party-like mentality. If not for the board failures, this would be a better park. There are plenty of kinks to work out here, and the fans could be much better. Yes, the park is brand new, there are plenty of amenities, there are several unique quirks, and it looks pretty… but there are many improvements that could be made. The tickets could stand to be a bit cheaper, as well. My overall impression of this park was an okay one, and I don’t know if I’d come back any time soon. But, at least my southwest leg of this trip was done and over with. Now on to the Great White North! As always, thank you all for reading the page, and feel free to shoot me an e-mail! I love hearing from each and every one of you. See you at the ballpark!