Baseball isn’t my sport. Last time I went to a ball game at Dodger Stadium, the most exciting part was when a beach ball was punched into our section. But when the city of Miami decided to follow the mantra from the classic movie Field of Dreams of “If you build it (with taxpayer money), they will come.” I had to see the brand new stadium.
From the outside the stadium is a monstrosity. It’s built on the sacred ground of what was once the Orange Bowl where the Miami Dolphins had their perfect season, the University of Miami Hurricanes held a 58 game home winning streak, Joe Namath won a Super Bowl, and Al Pacino coached the Miami Sharks to a come from behind victory in the movie Any Given Sunday. History though went kaboom and the owner of the Marlins convinced the city to fund Marlins Stadium. Investigations of corruption are underfoot while schools and public transportation are underfunded, but why ruin a lazy Sunday thinking of misappropriated funds.
I walked out to the park and found a scalper trying to sell tickets. We got him down to two for $25, but at an electronic kiosk I was able to buy two tickets for $20. Meanwhile the scalper snookered two people to buy his tickets for $50. Baseball and capitalism, all I needed was apple pie to feel truly American.
But as I took the escalator up into the ball park, I grew less snarky. I’d never been to an indoor stadium. I’d seen Dodger Stadium nestled with a majestic view of the San Gabriel Mountains. I’d seen the ivy bricks of Chicago’s Wrigley Field and I went to a World Series Game in San Francisco’s ball park, but none of those sights were as impressive as the field in Marlins Stadium. The lighting under the spacious roof was reminiscent of the way New York train stations appear in movies. While it was a humid ninety-three degree day outside, the climate control in the stadium was cool and pleasant. The conditions made you think if we had to abandon our planet scientists could make our spaceships nurturing enough so we wouldn’t miss the sunshine and cool breezes of the outdoors.
We took our seats by right field. The problem with baseball for me is too many long stretches where nothing happened. The architects behind Marlins Stadium built this place for the attention deficit generation. The sound system is not only plugged into the organist jamming Take Me Out To The Ballgame, but also to a DJ who randomly blasts songs and video on to the state of the art jumbotron. There is a bobblehead display where you can see all your favorite baseball players massive plastic cranium. Then there are the hundreds of food stands. A gluten free stand, a juice stand with coconut smoothies mixed with soy milk, Cuban restaurants, and a place called the Kosher Korner. Last but not least there is the home run sculpture, a gaudy flamingo laced mess that would make Brito blush.
But what about the game? The Marlins beat the San Diego Padres in the bottom of the tenth inning. There were home runs, lead changes, and stolen bases. Everything you could want from a late July game between two cellar dwelling teams. There was even a moment of genuine excitement. We picked seats that were fairly desolate and at one point a ball was hit foul by a player’s bat. The ball flew high in the air and it couldn’t be… Was it coming in our direction? Suddenly I had flashbacks to my youth where I was stationed in right field praying for balls to go anywhere but near me. Now I was not even equipped with a glove for protection. But as the ball arced directly toward me, a large man dove for it knocking me down. I fell on the man’s considerable back and the ball rolled to a fifty year old guy in the row in front of me. He did a dance mocking us and it suddenly came to me why baseball was never my game. It wasn’t the long stretches where nothing happened, it was the short bursts where something happened.