Thursday, July 19, 2007

Roadtrip Stop #1: Friendless and Forlorn in Florida

Okay, I’m finally out of rehab after last weekend’s baseball roadtrip. Since all of you have been emailing us with a play-by-play, I’ll start with an entry today about stop #1: Washington Nationals at Florida Marlins (July 13, 2007). One may be the loneliest number, but 11,438 ain't too far behind.

The two Los Angeles-based roadtrippers flew into Miami on the redeye flight from LAX (my friend’s idea, which was genius). By 8am Friday morning, we were already in our hotel on the shores of Sunny Isles Beach, and soon we were drinking brews out on the sand beside the warm Atlantic Ocean. A baseball roadtrip of this nature required the sort of mental sharpness required of Jeopardy contestants, so those afternoon hours swimming in the ocean went to good use. By the time the rest of our compatriots had arrived, we were in fine form and ready to see a Marlins game!

Off to Dolphin Stadium, amidst a stifling humidity that should have given us second thoughts as we walked in the stadium. Or maybe we should have had second thoughts when we got up the ramp and entered the concourse corridor…and the corridors were so bare, we could have shot a rocket down it and not hit anyone.

Maybe we shouldn’t have bought that $27 seat, and instead considered a cheaper seat for entry, before "sneaking down" (like anyone would stop you) to any seat in the stadium? After all, the stands were pretty empty…but maybe this was because the game hadn’t started yet.

Two beers later, we’re in the early innings of the game. And no, the stands still aren’t even close to populated, let alone full. For all those people who lament Dodger fans showing up late to games--at least we show up. Note Dontrelle Willis’ goofy windup on the mound.

Dontrelle didn’t last long, only 3.2 innings, and the Nationals—-a team 16 games below .500—-had a 8-1 lead after three and a half innings. But after five full frames the score was 11-9 Nationals, and it looked like the gap might be closing. Alas, the Nats put the game a bit more out of reach in the seventh and eventually won 14-10.

What else does one do to occupy oneself while sitting in the cavern that is Dolphins Stadium, watching pitchers rotate through the game like Tony La Russa was managing (12 pitchers were used in the game)? One could gamble on every game on the out-of-town scoreboard in left field, but that's always a losing proposition (always). So I amused myself with a shot at one of 100 baseballs autographed by the whole Marlins team, which ended up being unsuccessful, according to the message on my scratch-off card (distributed upon entry). Still, it sure beats a lip-gloss giveaway.

And I could always spend time marveling at the fine HDTV monitor above centerfield. That’s quite a sharp image!

Believe me, the screen looked even better when they were televising the between-innings dance moves of the Marlins Mermaids, “the first dance/cheer team in MLB.” One of them waved at me. I'm sure of it.

But I digress.

Home runs from the Marlins’ Jacobs, Amezega, and Willingham were impressive (as was the fact the Nationals scored all those runs without a single home run), but not enough to keep this game exciting when you’re sitting there in an empty section with only 11,438 tickets sold. This was the least-attended game in the majors that evening, by a scant 17K tickets. Yeesh.

For a team that has won two World Series titles (1997, 2003) in its short existence, and has exciting players like Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for which to root, it is sad that the Marlins can’t generate any local fan support. Maybe the fact that owner Jeffrey Loria is one of the worst owners in all of the major sports. Or maybe the fact that Jeremy Hermida is one thin vowel away from rhyming with a venereal disease is keeping the health-conscious Miami fans away from the ballpark? Or maybe the low attendance is because the Marlins’ stadium isn’t a ballpark at all, just a converted football stadium that has a bizarrely crooked centerfield territory as a result.

All I know was, the humidity was killing us, so we left a little early (to beat the crowd). I don't think I'll be back to see the Marlins at home anytime soon--and I'm not even sure if they'll be there for much longer. Times like these make one thankful to be a Dodger fan; even when it's hot at the Stadium, it isn't sickeningly humid, and it's never so empty that you can hear sound echoing back and forth in the stadium. Stadium #23 (current MLB stadiums), achieved.

I'll report about stop #2 next time; in the meantime, perhaps Delino has some other comments or pictures to post?


Rob said...

First dance/cheerleading team? Does nobody remember how that worked out for the Angels?

Steve Sax said...

Do tell, Rob.

I would be happy to judge the relative "merits" of the two teams. I assume the Angels' staff was equally heavenly?