You probably remember in junior high school how you were required to write an English paper on your class trip to the local museum or the state park. Well, for this week’s blog post, I decided to give you my “trip report” of my Father’s Day weekend in Miami, attending a three-game series between the Marlins and Cardinals.
My son Lee and I had planned this trip back on Opening Day. We usually try to make a trek to a different Major League ballpark each year. Since Marlins Park just opened last year, it made our short-list. Plus, we have the New Orleans Zephyrs’ affiliation with the Marlins. I grew up in the Mississippi Delta at a time when Jack Buck and Harry Caray were broadcasting Cardinals’ games throughout the region, so I had a connection there too. It turned out Lee and I were going to see the Major’s best and worst teams this season.
As I mentioned, Marlins Park opened for the 2012 season. It is settled among quaint neighborhoods of the Little Havana area of Miami. The stadium is very reminiscent of Houston’s Minutemaid Park—modern architecture, retractable roof, all the modern fan amenities—a very colorful, sheik-looking facility.
Unlike the iconic stadiums like Wrigley and Fenway, which exist in similar neighborhood settings, versus the newer downtown stadiums, the fan experience outside the stadium has still yet to develop. It is sorely lacking, as in non-existent, the neighborhood bars, food vendors, and baseball memorabilia shops. But you have to acknowledge that those historical parks probably took years to develop their current atmospheres. However, while Marlins Park is a very pleasant stadium for watching a game, it won’t likely wind up on the future list of historic parks, like PNC Park, Camden Yard, and the new Yankee Stadium.
Hard-core fans like Lee and I were disappointed that the stadium did not open until an hour and 15 minutes before the games. We did not see the home-team Marlins take batting practice or have much time to roam the stadium before the games. Lee frustratingly Tweeted the Marlins organization that “they were missing out on a great opportunity” to get more fans engaged in the major league experience.
I was excited that two of my fantasy league pitchers, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, would be starting the Friday and Saturday games for the Cardinals. But as it turned out, both pitchers got shellacked by the Marlins and wound up with game ERAs over 10.000 and WHIPs over 2.00, categories in which my team were already pretty dismal. Sometimes, I’m better off not paying attention to my fantasy team’s players.
The Marlins played well on Friday and squeaked out a win, 5-4. It was their 20th win this season, the lowest on the Majors—yes, even lower than the Astros!
Saturday’s game was a slugfest. Each team batted through the entire order in the first inning! The game ended in a 13-7 victory for the Cards, with both teams accounting for a total of 28 hits. Carlos Beltran hit a home run from both sides of the plate, a fairly rare occurrence in one game. Marlins Park has a cavernous field, but Beltran managed to hit each of his home runs down the foul lines.
The Fish dominated on Sunday. Ricky Nolasco held the Cardinals to three hits in seven innings. The Marlins’ Juan Pierre was a hitting machine and helped propel the Marlins to a 7-2 victory.
For the series, the Marlins’ club had only two former Zephyr players in the starting lineup of position players, for a single game each—catcher Rob Brantly and outfielder Justin Ruggiano. However, we did get to see former Zephyr hurlers, Nolasco, Steve Cishek, Dan Jennings, and Tom Koehler, who started Saturday’s game. Slidell, LA native, Logan Morrison, has recently come of the disabled list, but he did not make an appearance in these games. (I guess “LoMo” needed time to catch up on his Twitter activity!) Each time Lee and I have attended a big league game, we try to assess whether we may be seeing a future Hall of Famer play. I think we came up short this time. Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina are indeed All-Star-type players, but will likely fall short of Hall of Fame election. The book is probably still out on the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, but he shows promise of being a dominant player.
The attendance at each of the games was around 16,000. There were actually more Cardinals’ fans there, based on the amount of red shirts in the stands. It’s sad to see the Marlins’ franchise struggle like that at the gate. There had been such high hopes last year with the new stadium, a new manager (Ozzie Guillen), and a re-stocked team. I was among those last season who predicted that the Marlins would actually win the National League pennant. Boy, was I wrong, along with a few more folks.
However, over the winter, owner Jeffrey Loria dumped his high profile, high-salaried players, and consequently Giancarlo Stanton and Juan Pierre are pretty much the only recognizable players now on the roster, unless you happen to be a relative of the other players.
After baseball, food is next in line for Lee’s and my favorite things. We typically like to try the local cuisines on our baseball trips. So, this weekend we indulged ourselves on Miami’s fare of mojitos, cubano sandwiches, Cuban mac-and-cheese, and black beans and rice.
Even though the Saturday contest was filled with a lot of offense and excitement, perhaps the biggest highlight during the game for Lee and me was another game, in the College World Series -- Mississippi State vs. Oregon State. With both of us having our college days tied to Mississippi State, I have to admit this other game had our primary attention for the first half of the Marlins’ game. Twitter was our only vehicle for getting batter-by-batter updates during the college game. Lee’s Blackberry battery ran out by the fifth inning, and I was down to less than 20% power on my iPhone near the end of the college game. However, we managed to cheer the ‘Dawgs to a 5-4 comeback victory. The fans in the seats around us were a bit dumbfounded when we were “high-fiving,” hooting, and hollering between innings of the Marlins’ game. It appeared to them we were attending a different game…in a way, we were!
On the flight back to New Orleans Sunday night, Lee and I were keeping tabs of the LSU-UCLA score in the College World Series. Of course, there would be nothing better than seeing Mississippi State and LSU play for all the marbles in the championship game! Even though LSU lost its first game, I still have hopes of seeing the two SEC teams square off in the final series.
All in all, the trip to Miami was a great way to spend a Father’s Day weekend—with family, baseball, and food. I’ll take that kind of trip any day!