The first thing I did, upon learning that a work trip would take me to the land of Jai Alai, plastic pink flamingos and brightly painted bungalows with terra cotta roofs, was to look up the Miami Marlins schedule. When I discovered that my trip would coincide with a home stand my excitement was temporary and tepid, for I have seen the lime green fence, the epileptic seizure of a home run feature and the aquarium around home plate on TV and I was annoyed by all of them. The joint seemed to scream “schtick” to me and as a result I was prepared to be let down by the lack of “traditional” touches I have come to love in many cities. The brick facades, the dark green seats, the traditional architecture.
As I exited my rented Ford Mustang and headed for the stairwell in the Home Plate Garage I was expecting to be let down but was surprised to catch myself staring in awe at the giant building in front of me. Being a Sci Fi geek of the worst kind, the building evoked in me images of the civilian fleet set adrift and under the protection of the Battlestar Galactica in the 2003 SyFy Channel miniseries. I was astonished to be impressed and amazed to not be missing the retro look of many other stadiums.
As I have traveled to many MLB ballparks, I have developed a pattern and approach to getting the most out of what is likely to be my lone visit. The pillars of this approach are:
- Get to the park early and sneak to the expensive seats for a close look at the field.
- Find my actual seat and then wander the concourses, finding some signature food item to eat along the way, until about 15 minutes before the first pitch.
- Spend 3 Innings in my seat, watching the game and taking in the atmosphere.
- Walk to one of the bars in the stadium, get a Jack and Coke, and then wander the concourses during the game to get as many angles as possible for 3 innings.
- Watch the last 3 innings from a seat, preferably in some other part of the park than the one I purchased.
Here are the notes from my 5 point observation plan on Marlins Park:
My pregame stroll started with a tough decision. Marlins Park had many, many food options that featured local favorites scattered throughout the place. The problem was that I had been to Mango’s in South Beach for dinner the night before and I was in the mood for more traditional baseball fare. One thing to note here is that the concourses in Miami feel like Parisian Boulevards, wide and bright. They are painted with various accent colors, giving each section of the park the feel of a separate neighborhood. Upon dressing my dog and taking a bite, I instantly regretted my choice. The dog was somewhat dry and the bun was a little soggy. I suppose it served me right for skipping the fired shrimp and potatoes or Cuban food.
Two other things jumped out at me on this sneak to the good seats and pregame stroll. The first was that the team hasn’t quite figured out how to manage the playing surface. There was a patch of grass behind third base that was particularly troubling with multiple sections of dying sod interwoven with not too healthy looking grass. The second was that the park had an “unfinished” feel, best represented by the backside of the monstrous HR feature.
These are relatively minor quibbles. It could have been a bad night in the concession stand for hot dogs, the “unfinished” feel could soon be rectified and they will eventually nail managing the environment so that the grass looks healthier. And suffice to say, these quibbles were far outweighed by the positives of the stadium, starting with the aforementioned concourses. But the one underlying aspect that made this stadium so enjoyable can be summed up by saying, “It was quintessential Miami.”
One of the first things I noticed on the stroll was a huge column painted with a history of the site’s former historic resident, the Orange Bowl. This added a nice slice of history to the most modern looking ballpark built since 1992. Another highlight was the Bobblehead Museum with All Star like representation for all of MLB’s franchises. Being the fan of libations that I am, I was also happy to see a bar situated above both Left and Right Field with great views of the playing surface.
When I finally arrived in my seat, gushing at all the awesome that was contained in the stadium I was surprised to see that the park included one last tiny slice of awesome in that it had free WiFi for the guests. Admittedly, this is an aspect that some would not be heralding as “awesome.” I am not only a Sci Fi geek, but a consumer technology geek as well. I love me some Facebook and Instagram and Twitter…. They all work better on the WiFi. Another highlight of the time in my seat was a Jose Reyes HR that set off that insane fish sculpture in Left Center. It didn’t seem half as obnoxious in person as it had on TV.
My second, and in game, stroll included several discussions with fans. Many of whom, upon learning of my affiliation with the Green and Gold, were effusive with praise. It may have just been this particular night, but there was a vitriol for Marlins ownership that more than rivals anything you might hear in the Right Field bleachers of the Coliseum. The two most common things I heard was “You guys do it right” in reference to Billy Beane and “Hanley will be your problem come tomorrow” in way that hinted he was a problem they still wished was theirs. My favorite interaction was with a man from Fremont, he hugged me as he finished recounting the previous nights A’s and Blue Jays game with an emotional “Moneyball is back!”
One bad thing on this stroll, I tried to sneak into the Clevelander, a club tucked inside the Left Field fence but was thwarted (the usher had never heard of newballpark.org and didn’t care that I just wanted to take a picture). One of my favorite places to watch a game in San Francisco is from inside the Right Field fence, the Virgin Loft. I would have loved to compare the two experiences because from what I understand, the guys in Miami elevated the inside the fence club concept to a new level.
In summary, this stadium is a real treat and much better than I expected after seeing it on TV. I hope that the folks of South Florida start basking its glory with more frequency because it is a shrine to all things Miami. I would gladly take it, or something similar in the Bay Area in which our Green and Gold heroes could ply their trade.