The past few days in the Sunshine State haven’t been very sunny… pretty tropical stormy as a matter of fact. It’s been raining on and off since we got here on the 23rd, and now Tropical Storm Debby has produced strong winds, flood warnings, and even a couple tornadoes in the middle of the state. But nothing’s stopping us from seeing our baseball games! … Actually the only reason we were still able to go to the game today was because the field at Marlins Ballpark is under an 8,300-ton retractable roof made of steel. And once again – my dad and I are not holding hands in this picture…
This roof (which only takes about 14.5 minutes to open or close), along with the huge glass panels in the outfield (which are also retractable), allows the feeling of natural outdoor baseball when weather permits. And when these huge glass windows are open, you can see the downtown Miami skyline just 2 miles in the distance. I don’t know if it was because of the weather, but when these windows were closed at our game, they looked like a type of frosted glass design so we couldn’t see the city.
The shape of the stadium and the view of it from the outside give it a very contemporary, almost futuristic look, unlike some other newer ballparks that opted to go with a retro design with all brick and concrete. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria actually asked the architects at the notorious stadium-designer firm, Populous, to “make a piece of art” and he wanted his venue to be “different and experimental.” And that’s exactly what they came up with. It’s an elliptical structure – different than any stadium we’re seen so far – with ramps gradually inclining around the outer walls, and windows and glass panels of various shades of blue and green give a modern, aquatic impression very fitting for both the Miami setting and the Marlins organization.
This is actually the inaugural season of the venue, and construction was only finished in March of this year. The Marlins have shared Sun Life Stadium with the NFL Miami Dolphins and the NCAA Miami Hurricanes football teams ever since they became an organization in 1993, so this is the first time they have a home of their own. And they really went all out to illustrate this point, with so many unique features all around the ballpark. For example, there are fish aquariums embedded in both sides of the wall of the backstop behind home plate. One is 34 feet long, the other is 24 feet, and both are protected by bullet-proof glass and contain a combined 1,500 gallons of seawater filled with dozens of colorful fish and coral (not my picture below).
The most prominent feature of the venue is the most loud and elaborate thing I’ve seen in all the parks so far. It’s about 70 feet tall with lights flashing blue, green, orange, and yellow; fake palm trees, flamingos, and water move around at the bottom, and 2 giant marlins circle the display whenever a home team player hits a home run (and when the team wins). I personally prefer the less flashy displays like the rocky geysers in Anaheim or the classic Big Apple that rises at Citi Field for the Mets, but the Miami locals love this presentation and I think it represents the culture of the city very well. I also thought it was pretty cool that along the concourse by the field-level entrances, each concrete pillar had a picture of one of the starting players (or the starting pitcher) of that day… which is obviously customized before every game.
The Bobblehead Museum is an awesome touch to the concourse, too, displaying 588 different bobbleheads in a large glass display case with about 8 shelves. The figurines range from historic baseball legends, to current stars from around the league, and even to team mascots.
With Miami being a culture significantly defined by its Hispanic roots, Marlins Ballpark offers such a wide variety of food from different Latino communities. Deep-fried, cheese-stuffed cornbread patties known as arepas are a popular Colombian and Venezuelan food available, and the Medianoche sandwich is a pork, ham, and Swiss cheese sandwich originating from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, we decided to go with a classic Cuban Sandwich (very similar to the Medianoche) from the “Taste of Miami” food area in left field. It was one of the blandest, tasteless Cuban sandwiches I’ve ever had, and I actually didn’t even want to finish it.
But once again, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this other food item we got was one of the best things I tasted all summer. It was the Chicharrónes, which are bits of fried pork rinds (skin and fat). They are sometimes eaten in tacos or gorditas in Mexico, but many other countries like to just cut off chunks of pork, fry them, and eat them as is. That’s how they were served here, and it was the most perfect combination of a crunchy, salty skin, along with chewy, tender meaty parts. It was amazing.
Along with the new stadium, new name, and new team logo, the Marlins made some drastic additions to their ballclub, including all-star closer Heath Bell, mouthy manager Ozzie Guillen, and one of the best shortstops in the game (who I absolutely despise), Jose Reyes. Mark Buehrle has pitched both a no-hitter AND a perfect game in his career, and was also added to the team this year. He pitched a good game today, going 7 scoreless innings against Blue Jay Jesse Chavez whose start is just the 2nd of his big-league career. Mike… wait no, Giancarlo Stanton, is one of my favorite players in the league, as one of the hardest hitting guys out there… I don’t get how he hasn’t been in a home run derby yet. Jose Bautista led the league with 43 homers last year, and is currently leading now, so it was cool to see him play too.
Final score: Marlins 9, Blue Jays 0
Starting pitchers: Mark Buehrle – 7 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, 7 Ks; Jesse Chavez (L) – 6 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 6 ER, 6 Ks
Homers: John Buck, Greg Dobbs
And look, we were on the jumbo tron again! Well, my dad and sister were while I was taking a picture of it… my sister’s the one with the goofy face at the top middle and my dad is to the right of her. You can sorta see my left eye to the left of the red shirt guy’s belly.
Next stop: Tampa Bay Rays 6/28