The Miami (formerly Florida) Marlins have a new name, new uniforms and logo, new manager, and most importantly a brand new, state-of-the-art ballpark for 2012 filled with enthusiastic fans. That being said, the new branding/identity has yet to have an on-field impact, however, because the team is stuck in fourth place in the MLB National League East. Last year the team finished in fifth place in the division.
The Marlins’ won-loss record notwithstanding, we recently had the opportunity to visit Marlins Park located on 17 acres of the former Miami Orange Bowl site.
As you probably know, the-then Florida Marlins used to play in the same stadium as the NFL Dolphins which went by various names, including Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, and Dolphins Stadium among others. Attendance was a chronic issue at that stadium, which was configured for football. If you ever attended a game there, it’s hard to explain, but all the fans were clustered around the seats above home plate and the first base line in the otherwise empty venue…it almost felt like you were watching a game on a big screen TV in someone’s living room rather than in person.
Marlins Park (the naming rights have yet to sold) is specifically designed for baseball, on the other hand, and as such is completely different. The construction of the ballpark, however, is still highly controversial especially since it was built with public funds. The current mayor of Miami was elected in a landslide because of his opposition to the stadium plan, for example. Investigations are currently underway into possible financial shenanigans and hanky-panky related to stadium financing.
Leaving politics aside, let’s take a quick tour of the facility, which has a contemporary rather than a retro design.
On the night in question, the Nationals matched up against the first-place Washington Nationals. Two somewhat struggling aces, Jordan Zimmerman of the Nats and Josh Johnson of the Marlins, faced off against each other, with Zimmerman and the Nats prevailing in the end by 5-1, in front of a crowd of about 30,000. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (no relation) homered in the game.
This is a view from the parking garage, with the stadium on the right and the Miami skyline in the distance:
Some of the bamboo plants outside the stadium at street level:
Full-size Marlin Marlins logo outside:
Fans can see themselves on a big screen outside the stadium near the entrance:
Fans queuing up to enter Marlins Park before game time:
Pitcher Wade LeBlanc signing autographs before the game:
This is the back of the so-called home run feature in center field, designed by Red Grooms. The sculpture goes off when the Marlins hit one into the seats, but they only mustered one run that night without the long ball.
The picture of each Marlins starter in the game is posted around the ballpark, here newly acquired first baseman Carlos Lee:
Are you into MLB bobblehead dolls? There are about 700 in this collection in Marlins Park:
A close-up of some of the bobblehead dolls:
Baseball is unique perhaps because of its strong statistical foundation. Marlins Park has a high-definition scoreboard (here showing the Nationals’ rookie Bryce Harper) loaded with numbers that allows fans to strategize along with the manager.
The Marlins complete a double play–note the home run sculpture in left center:
Marlins Park has a retractable roof. On the night in question, it was retracted apparently because rain was in the forecast. If you go to a Marlins game, make sure to bring a sweater or hoodie no matter how warm it is outside. Once the air conditioning is activated, it gets really cold.
Marlins Park has plenty of food and drink venues when you’re hungry, but remember, like virtually all MLB stadiums, you’re going to pay a premium.
Among other notable features of the stadium include the aquarium behind home plate, which we were unable to photograph from our seats. Next time!
[All photos by Robert Jonathan]