The Marlins Close Out Their Home Season with a Wide Smile
No, last Sunday was not a perfect day for baseball. The sky cast slate gray, the rain barely stayed at bay, and the extreme heat served only as a warmer for the even more extreme humidity.
It sure turned out to be a perfect day of baseball though. Remarkably so. Wanna know why? Because the Miami Marlins insisted upon it. That’s why.
From the beginning, the Marlins made it clear that Miami was in for a day to remember — and that arch rival Atlanta would be facing a day to forget. Dee “Flash” Gordon got the Memory Lane game going by singling after only one pitch and rookie first baseman Justin Bour drove him home by knocking a fastball off the right field pole.
As the AP reported, Bour was pure power throughout — the game, as well as the three-game series, which the Marlins swept handily. A solo shot in game three’s seventh gave the slugger the first multihomer game of his big league career, and left him a sweet 7 for 12 in the series with four home runs and eight RBIs.
“There’s no doubt he’s locked in,” Braves pitcher Shelby Miller told AP. “Obviously a lot of talent there. I think the Marlins have found a first baseman, for sure. He’s a guy who looks like he’s not going anywhere; a tremendous talent.”
Those sentiments would unquestionably be concurred by each and every one of the 27, 702 fans fortunate enough to be on hand to catch Miami cap that three-game streak and seventh straight beating of the Braves. Even more so when they note how Bour’s power brought the hometeam to a league-leading 17-8 on the month.
Bour was backed up by Martin Prado, who “drove in three runs,” and Marcell Ozuna, who “also homered for Miami,” plus of course the pitching of Tom Koehler, who “allowed four runs, nine hits, and five walks in 6 2-3 innings. And who benefited from four double plays behind him.
“[Koehler] is ‘Rambo,’” Marlins manager Dan Jennings told the AP. “He just keeps battling and he finds a way.”
Prado, who once was a Brave, underscored Jennings with the understatement of the year:
“We’ve been playing pretty good baseball.”
Make that Great Baseball!
To their credit, the Braves did do their best to keep it a game, answering Bour’s initial adamance with two runs of their own in the second and coming back in the fifth to counter third basemen Prado’s third inning RBI of Christian Yelich to make it 3-3 in the fifth.
The more the Braves tried to save face though, the more chances the Marlins got to step up and give the fans some of that damn great baseball.
Yet no matter how talented a team, with South Florida’s unforgiving elements at play, not even top notch playing is enough to make for a perfect day of baseball. Fortunately, Miami’s got a secret weapon which spectacularly counters any- and everything the Theoi Meteoroi dare throw against its home team.
Yep, you guessed it, the weather gods-battling secret weapon of which we speak is the state of the art, unafraid of the dark, field-to-end-all-fields known by name as Marlins Park.
Put into contention for the Marlins’ 2012 season and a constant source of controversy and consternation throughout the entire decade preceding its existence, Marlins Park seems to have gone up against as many adversaries as there are games in a Major League Baseball team’s season (162).
Unlike MLB teams however, Marlins Park has beaten all of their opponents.
At this point chronicling the dust-ups would be superfluous. That was then, and Miami is all about now. As is Marlins Park, which team owner Jeffrey Loria and company insisted be unique to our city.
And unique to Miami it is — and then some. Designed by Kansas City-based Populous, whose innumerable credits include arenas (The Theater at Sydney’s Darling Harbor and Nanjing Sports Park) and stadia (Dublin’s Aviva Stadium and Natal Brazil’s Arenas das Dunas), as well as ballparks for baseball’s Nationals, Orioles, Twins, Padres, Cards, Giants and Yankees (really), Populous projects host more people in more places on more days than any given design company in the whole wild world.
What makes Populous such an, er, populous success is its ability to fuse cutthroat architecture with the charm of Heartland America, and nowhere is that more evident than in Marlins Park.
Think the nostalgia of Wrigley or Fenway as done for The Jetsons; then think starchitects Zaha Hadid and Santiago Calatrava as Mommy and Daddy Jetson and you’ll get some of the idea. Think Julia Tuttle and Jose Marti as Mommy and Daddy Miami and you’ll get some more. A space as perfect for the place in which it is placed as anywhere else on earth.
All that (and then some) could be felt within the very marrow of every Marlins fan’s being last Sunday. Oh, not overtly, mind you (no one is walking around saying ‘Hey Jose, do you feel like a Jetson today?’), but intrinsically. At Marlins Park, space age and humanity are not mutually exclusive; neither are cool and warmth. It isn’t patronizingly retro, and it isn’t gratuitously moderne. It is, in a word, “contemporary.” As in ‘right this minute.’
“Mr. Loria told us to make a piece of art.”
Populous met Mr. Loria’s challenge alright, and if the finished product is a harbinger of things to come, the future is nothing to fear. And when the Marlins themselves at last become equal to that promise, our future is bound to be one embraceable blast for the whole family.
Aside from the spectacular sensation that is Marlins Park and the on field fireworks from Marlins firecrackers, Mr. Loria’s behind another element that’s unique to Miami — that’s the inexplicable (and inexplicably delightful) sixth inning drive-by known as The Great Sea Race.
SFF Style happened to be hanging behind homeplate when Marlins Marketing Manager Boris Menier radioed “Open the gates!” And when we saw the far centerfield gates open and caught sight of Bob the Shark, Angel the Stone Crab, Spike the Sea Dragon and Julio the Octopus taking to the warning track at full speed (well, as full speed as a foam-rubber Sea Creature suit allows anyway), our hearts were wrapped in a warmth that would’ve been approved by Norman Rockwell. No easy feat in Miami, where cool generally outpaces warmth to a discriminating degree.
In a similar (but different) vein is the Marlins official DJ Vertigo, who shows that tres cool and epitomizing warmth can nicely hand-in-glove. Vertigo’s been spinning perfect circles for Miami Marlins fans since before there even was such a thing as Marlins Park. He also volunteers to make sure the Sea Creatures get to the starting gate and off the finish line without getting their massive bodies in a twist.
DJ Vertigo also hosts that Sunday Funday favorite known as the Diamond Dash.
The grand finale of every Sunday home game, the Diamond Dash gives kids 12 and under a chance to run the bases of their heroes on the very field where their heroes play. If you consider the green of the field, the orange of the clay, the bright of the lights, and the all around majesty of the field, it’s some awesome experience. If you add the fact that the Dash caps a Funday that features frolicking in the pool at The Clevelander (the only day kids are permitted) and (hopefully) a win from those very heroes, well, awesome is just the “a” of the “all that!”
Some knuckleheads might say Vertigo’s playing to the field is, well, a tad de classe, especially for a hotshot DJ. Those knuckleheads would be wrong; way wrong. The Great Sea Race is part and partial to the charm of Marlins Park, as is the Diamond Dash, and it is to Vertigo’s credit that he ensures the Great Sea Creatures make their Race and the kids get their kicks. In fact, it is Vertigo’s going above-and-beyond which makes him tres cool to begin with.
It’s hard to say just how much of everything made last Sunday’s outing such a great day of baseball, and to gauge any one element without the other would subtract from the whole experience. Of course, without the Marlins’ winning performance, there is no great day — of, for or otherwise. But without Marlins Park and all its inherent charm, there’s no great day. Let’s just reiterate that the hometown team has a perfect home; just the kinda home that’ll perfectly house many more great days of baseball to come.
Asked by the Sun-Sentinel how he felt about Sunday’s win over the Braves, Marlins manager Dan Jennings said he was “very happy.”
“Excellent home stand,” he continued. “Great way to close out our season at home, winning nine out of 11 to allow us to have a winning record at home. Just so proud of the way these men have responded and how they’re playing down the stretch… It’s fun to watch.”
We here at home couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly!
By John Hood