As part of the second of four Opening Days, the Miami Marlins opened up their brand new baseball stadium last night, taking on the defending World Series champions in the only game on the schedule. While the regular season begins in earnest today (as well as in Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati and San Diego), yesterday evening’s National League tilt seemed more like a genuine opener than the games that were played in Japan last week.

Unfortunately for the Marlins, things didn’t go as planned. On the field, they were dominated by a lethal combination of good old fashioned bad luck and Kyle Lohse actually being able to locate his pitches. The St. Louis Cardinals starter held Miami hitless until the seventh inning, but benefitted from the enormous confines of the ballpark as early as the second inning when Giancarlo Stanton flied out to center field on a 405 feet deep drive into dead center field that would’ve been a home run in most stadiums.

The Cardinals, supplied by a two run single in the first inning by World Series hero David Freese, went on to win the game 4-1. But baseball is a cruel mistress, and as nice as a win would’ve been to open up the new stadium, there were far worse things happening last night to make last night memorable for all the wrong reasons.

In searching for something more distasteful than the home run celebration monstrosity that laid dormant in center field last night, one could have found owner Jeffrey Loria escorting Muhammad Ali onto the field to throw out the first pitch. It was hard not to see the act as something of a human shield against booing that came across as exploitive, painful and awkward all at once.

From Deadspin’s Erik Malinowski:

Loria slung his arm around Ali’s shoulders, while Ali’s hands shook profusely the entire time. The crowd initially cheered, but stopped after 30 seconds. With the cart still progressing toward the infield and the awaiting Marlins players, the PA announcer felt compelled to start an “Ali!” chant from his booth. The opening of Marlins Park started off with a parade of showgirls and Jose Feliciano singing the National Anthem. It ended with the sad, shameless sight of Loria trotting out Ali’s disease-ravaged body for a forced on-field ceremony.

This was hardly a minority opinion:

For the audience at least, the opening ceremony set a strange tone for the rest of the game that not even the typically wonderful production value (save for Terry Francona’s CB radio microphone) of a national broadcast from ESPN could turn.

One other observation from last night: St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte is a boss.

And The Rest

Quick reminder: If you’re in the Toronto area this afternoon, come on down to Opera Bob’s for our live live stream ahead of this afternoon’s game between the Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians. Get there early, as there’s only room for 75 people. [Facebook]

I was a part of a panel breaking down the coming season for the National Post. Check out the facts, fun and predictions. [National Post]

A little lyrical excitement from last evening: Twas The Night Before Opening Day. [Getting Blanked]

Colorado Rockies pitcher Josh Outman hurt himself hurling. [Toronto Sun]

Steve Berthuaime explains his prediction that the Houston Astros would win their division in 2011. [ESPN's Sweet Spot Blog]

The parallelism of Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke. [Baseball Nation]

A new New Era commercial? I’ll take it. [YouTube via Big League Stew]

Bobby Valentine would appreciate it if Curt Schilling would stop making stuff up. []

Morality? Pffft. Throwing bean balls excites the fan base. [Miller-McCune]

FanGraphs sees dynasty potential in the Toronto Blue Jays. [DJF]

The Tampa Bay Rays are the best defensive team in baseball. This is what happens when you field seven shortstops, a pitcher and Carlos Pena. [The Ledger]

One of Canada’s best baseball writers profiles Gordie Hustle. [National Post]

An evaluation of the long term contract. [Baseball Nation]

Finally, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter was almost Henry Louis Gates’d. [Twitter]