Thursday, April 5, 2012
OPENING NIGHT AT MARLINS PARK: THERE WAS A GAME BEING PLAYED? HUH.
Last night, amidst the bright lights and salsa music and general circus show atmosphere, a baseball game was played. You'd have had to look carefully to find it, but it was there. It just wasn't nearly as interesting or important as the party surrounding it.
Baseball. Opening Night. A new, state of the art ballpark. Miami's latest chance to show the world just how truly awesome this place can be, when it wants to be. And it most definitely was. Maybe the rest of the country was celebrating the official beginning of baseball season—that stuff in Japan doesn't count—but to the 36,601 people in attendance last night, Marlins Park stole the show.
The place is kinda beautiful…
Before last night, the only ballparks I had ever set foot in were Joe Player Sun Shark Stadium, The Trop, and Shea Stadium. I was only five when I visited Shea and the game was rained out before it even started, so, really, this was my first time at a legitimate ballpark suitable for a baseball game.
I'll admit, with the roof closed, the place seemed a little cold and dead. Not anywhere near as lifeless and Costco-ish as Tropicana Field, but there was definitely a feeling that you were about to watch baseball in an indoor facility, which doesn't exactly conjure up images of Field of Dreams. But, once the roof opens and the glass in left field slides out of the way to make room for the sun and a view of the city, holy hell, is it beautiful.
During the day? Preeeeeeeeeety.
At night? Still preeeeeeeeeety.
Something I noticed right away was the seats; oh my god, they faced the field. To anyone outside of Miami, this might seem stupid, but they probably don't realize that baseball fans in South Florida have only had two viewing options for the better part of a decade: either stare into a random part of the outfield or ruin your spine trying to see home plate. My chiropractor hates this park already.
Marlins Park isn't without its faults, though…
For starters, a video played in the ballpark—about the ballpark—boasting a "360° unobstructed view!" Which was cute, because the first line drive hit to the right field wall may as well have happened on Saturn, because I would've had the same view of the play. In fact, my friend and I checked out most of the building and the only place there wasn't an obstructed view of the corners was from behind the plate. Though, I'd imagine all ballparks can claim to have a 360° unobstructed view from those seats.
Another thing that grated on me a little bit was Jeffrey Loria's insistence on showing you how much he loves art. From the artwork around the concourse to the lime green wall to the home run sculpture in center field, Loria takes every opportunity to slap you in the face and remind you that he loves art. He sooooooooo loves art, you guys. I mean, Jeffrey Loria really looooooooooooooves art. Did you know that he loves art? Huh? Did you? Art. Art. Art. Art. Art. Art. Art. Even one of the JumboTron trivia games was the Picasso Art Scramble, where they Pablo Picasso the hell out of a player's face and give the fans a few seconds to guess who it is.
Speaking of the scoreboard…
Oh my god. We get it, Jeffrey. We get it.
As for the festivities…
These types of things never look and sound as exciting in person as they do on television, but this one seemed especially awkward and subdued. If it weren't for the Marlins PA announcer suggesting we all record video of it with our phones, I wouldn't have been sure it was even going on. A song about America, a montage of Miami's musical history (featuring Sean Kingston?!?), some bands marching on and off the field; it all just felt a little disjointed.
By far, the most uncomfortable moment of the festivities was when they brought out a little boy—his mother and grandmother by his side—and asked him how long it had been since he'd seen his brother, who was deployed in Afghanistan. The uncertainty in his response ("Uh, a month…? A few years…?") elicited a chuckle from the crowd, but when they surprised him with a live-feed of his brother on the JumboTron and the delayed satellite feed made a normal conversation between the two seemingly impossible, we were all left to watch three very sad people staring at a giant video screen with one very sad person staring right back at them with hardly a word being spoken.
Yay! Opening Night! Y'all excited yet?!
(All of the over-the-top America celebration stuff seemed unnecessary, anyway. After all, it's hard to imagine a more appropriate way to celebrate America than by hosting Opening Night in a brand new $500 million ballpark, built by a broke-ass, corrupt city that didn't want it and can't afford it.)
If soldier-sibling reunions aren't enough to send you into deep depression, though, the opening ceremony still had one last trick up its sleeve: old, broken Muhammad Ali being wheeled out to the middle of the field to throw out the first pitch. Or, at least, do whatever his frail body would allow him to do with a baseball these days, which was hand it to Hanley Ramirez. Barely.
Opening Night! Who's excited for some baseball now?! [Slits wrists.]
(Side note: Ali was wheeled out in a cart with Jeffrey Loria sitting next to him, holding his hand. Their hands clasped together in Muhammad Ali's lap, coupled with Ali's Parkinson's disease and the camera angle on the JumboTron, did create an amusing visual that made it look like Loria was giving The Greatest a handjob, so there's that, which was amusing.)
The quality of my ballpark experience is, and always will be, tied directly to its food options. And Marlins Park didn't disappoint. For dinner, I had a shrimp burger, garlic and Parmesan french fries and a soda, all for the low, low price of $25. Later, I spent another $6 on one of those mini baseball helmet ice cream things, completely missing the Marlins Random Sea Creature Race. Anyone know who won? I feel like that might be a Jeopardy question one day.
Also, in case anyone was wondering, the Marlins have gluten-free and kosher food stands. Kosher Korner even caters to those in need of a prayer.
Not sure what time or in which section they hold Ozzie's Santeria service, though. Sorry.
Oh, right, the game…
It should come as a surprise to exactly nobody that the first baserunner in Miami Marlins history happened in the most boring, Marlins way ever: Emilio Bonifacio was hit by a pitch. Hanley then hit into a double play and the Marlins were four inning into being no-hit. On Opening Night. In the first game in their brand new stadium. Of course they were.
By the 6th inning, my friend and I began wondering if there was a specific point in the game where we were allowed to begin openly rooting for a Lohse no-hitter. I mean, might as well make (more) history, right?
Of course, if the Bonifacio hit-by-pitch was #1 on the Things I Probably Should've Expected list, me missing the first run scored in Miami Marlins history because I was busy getting ice cream is probably #2. Yes, me—A MIAMI MARLINS BLOGGER—missed the first run in the team's new history because of some chocolate-vanilla swirl. I regret nothing.
The game, itself, was forgettable. Josh Johnson wasn't a cyborg, the home run sculpture was an inactive volcano and the Marlins were almost no-hit by the Cardinals third starter. But it didn't matter because the game was secondary. People came to see the park. I came to see the park. And in that regard, Opening Night was a success.
Unless you wanted to see what was happening in that damned "unobstructed" right field corner.