Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Amazing one-year turnaround

No, I'm not talking about how one year ago the Red Sox were in first place and now they're in last place. I'm talking about the Marlins, who are in town for a three-game series this week.

Last week the Red Sox went from Fenway, the oldest ballpark, to Miami, to play the newly-renamed Miami Marlins in their brand new downtown ballpark, on the site of the old Orange Bowl. I was there with my daughters, Caitlin and Kara, for game #1 at Marlins Park.

A year ago this week I went to Miami with Kara, and we took in a Florida Marlins-Arizona Diamondbacks game at Sun Life Financial Field, where the Miami Dolphins also play.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so check this out. Here's a shot I took a year ago:

This was actually during a game. I've been to high school games with more fans.

And here's a shot from last week:

At Sun Life Financial Field (previously known as Land Shark Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium and Joe Robbie Stadium) there were so few fans it was ridiculous. You could easily hear someone talking who was sitting ten sections away. The handful of people walking through the stadium could look at a model of the new stadium that would open in 2012, and I wondered where the money was coming from. Certainly not from ticket sales.

Flash forward to 2012. Marlins Park is easily the most colorful Major League ballpark I've ever seen, and I've been to games at 39 of them. The Cuban influence is everywhere, from the new logo to the salsa band playing outside the park. The fans are really into it. It has a one-picece retractable roof similar to the one in Seattle but obviously for a different reason. In left field there's a huge glass wall that gives you a great view of the Miami skyline. On a long shot it looks as good as it does when you're watching CSI: Miami or Dexter. About 30,000 were on hand (that would be some ten times what we saw a year ago) and many were wearing shirts and hats with the new Miami 5-color logo. To be sure, there were quite a few Red Sox fans as well. At one point they showed clips from two nights earlier when the Miami Heat knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs. The crowd erupted in a roar. I marked that down as excessive taunting.

The PA announcer did not yuck when introducing Marlins players. The scoreboard did say,"Make some noise" a few times, but they didn't use a graphic that shows you how to clap. Like almost all ballparks they had a race for fans to bet on in the middle of the 5th inning. In Milwaukee it's sausage v. hot dog v. brat. In DC it's George Washington v. Abraham Lincoln v. Teddy Roosevelt (Teddy always loses). Miami went with shark v. sea dragon v. octopus v. stone crab. They actually had the second-best wave I've ever seen. In every ballpark I've been to, except for Fenway, the wave is nonexistant or completely lame.

The scoreboard is huge and the diamondvision picture is shaped like a rectangle attached to a rhombus.

I've had the opportunity to see a game in the final season of an old ballpark and the first season of a new ballpark in six different cities (Baltimore, DC, Dallas, New York, Minneapolis and now Miami). A new park is always an upgrade, but Miami was the best turnaround I've seen.

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