There’s nothing like an early June visit to south Florida. The temperatures hover between 80 and 90 degrees and the humidity never dips below 90 percent. Afternoon thunderstorms roll through daily but provide no relief from the heat and humidity. It’s hot, it’s wet, and it’s sticky.
But my parents live in south Florida now after years of splitting time between there and New York. My kids were just out of school and flights were relatively affordable. Oh, and the Marlins were in town, for a weekend series with the Mets. A chance to see Marlins Park and its glorious home run sculpture, even if the game to be played on the field wasn’t likely to offer much in the way of entertainment. So we found ourselves in the muggy swamp that is south Florida the first week of June.
What? Matt Harvey‘s pitching for the Mets against the Marlins on June 2? Well, afternoon thunderstorms be damned. What a great time to visit Miami!
The Marlins have had a bit of challenge getting fans to the ballpark this season. In 32 home games, the Marlins have averaged only 17,522 tickets sold, ranking them 29th in the majors. And remember, official attendance is tickets sold; whether that many fans have actually shown up is another matter.
It’s not surprise, really, after the team spent a gazillion dollars on free agents before the 2012 season, posted a 69-93 record, traded away those free agents over the winter, and kicked off the 2013 season with a roster of Giancarlo Stanton and the Nobodies. And Stanton’s been hurt most of the season.
Matt Harvey’s start on June 2 drew a larger than average crowd: 18,434 in paid attendance. Having the Mets in town surely helped, given the number of former former New Yorkers who now call south Florida home. Plus, it was Jewish Heritage Day at the ballpark. The center field scoreboard showed large welcome signs for ten or fifteen area synagogues. There was good energy around the yard; well, certainly more than I expected.
Marlins Park isn’t much to look at on the outside. A large, white, domed building just off the highway. The franchise’s new turquoise, orange, yellow, and black colors don’t come into view until just after you step inside, and then they hit you like a big rig, along with the overpowering neon-y green.
It gets better from there.
We used the entrance behind home plate, which brought us into a large open space on the main concourse. Just to the left, past the information booth, is a large, glass-encased oval displaying nearly 600 bobbleheads. Current and former Marlins players are featured in the Bobblehead Museum (or Museo de Bobblehead), but there are bobbleheads from every team in the league — current players, former players, mascots, and broadcasters. Here’s a taste:
My iphone video doesn’t do it justice. I could’ve spent hours looking bobblehead by bobblehead. Matt Harvey was pitching so I didn’t spend those hours, but during a non-consequential Marlins game, the Bobblehead Museum is worth the low price of admission to Marlins Park all by itself.
We sat in the club level because the Marlins run a special on Sundays: four tickets in the club level, four hots dogs and four sodas for $54. We don’t eat hot dogs or drink soda but the seats were decent for the price — down the right field line with good sight lines. Only the right field corner was obscured.
The detailed information on the scoreboards was a pleasant surprise. You don’t think of the Marlins as a stats-loving franchise, but the scoreboards were chock full of interesting nuggets on the batters and pitchers. I especially liked the spray charts for each hitter showing the location of his balls in play. The out-of-town scoreboards on the left field wall are another highlight. For each game, there’s a diamond showing men on base, the number of outs, and the jersey number of batter and hitter. If you don’t have Gameday on your smart phone, you can easily follow the goings on around the league while the Marlins game trudges on.
My least favorite part of the ballpark was the incessant pop music played between every pitch, or so it seemed. Maybe it was every other pitch. It was loud. It was annoying. And it was non-stop. Dance Cams between innings are bad enough, in my view, but the incessant pop music destroys any sense that you’re there to watch a ballgame. It was like watching — gasp! — an NBA game.
The NBA-like entertainment wasn’t limited to the music. No the Marlins have their very own cheerleading squad. Not a mascot doing funny dances on top of the dugout (although there was that). A co-ed cheerleading squad.
And not to be outdone by the Sausage Races at Miller Park in Milwaukee or the Presidents Race at National Park in D.C., the Marlins have a The Great Sea Race. There’s Bob the Shark, Spike the Sea Dragon, Julio the Octopus, and Angel the Stone Crab.
I was too busy at the Juice Bar to notice who won the Great Sea Race the day I was there. And what a nice juice bar it was. Close to the Bobblehead Museum on the main concourse. Freshly-pressed vegetable and fruit juices. A nice alternative to the burgers and fries sold across the way. I’d been told that the Cuban food stand in left field was not to be missed, but miss it I did. I was too busy checking out the offerings at the Kosher Korner — a permanent concession on the main concourse, near right field. It was pretty crowded that day, owing perhaps to be it being Jewish Heritage Day. Or maybe it was the tasty cheeseburger offerings. Yes, the top menu item at the Kosher Korner is a cheeseburger — MADE WITH SOY CHEESE! — but a cheeseburger nonetheless. If you ever kept kosher or know anything about kosher rules, you will find that as absurd and funny as I did.
By the 8th inning, Matt Harvey was long gone from the mound — his worst start of the season — and my kids were getting antsy. “Patience,” I urged. “There’s still a chance we’ll see the home run sculpture light up.” “C’mon Mom,” replied my know-it-all 12-year-old. “The Marlins aren’t going to hit a home run. They’re the Marlins.”
Thank you Greg Dobbs. You made my day.