♫ Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out to Little Havana. Buy me arepas and fried plantains. The Clevelander has hot girls, so I can’t complain! Let me root, root, root for the Marlins, though I really don’t notice they’re there! For it’s uno, dos, tres mas cervezas, essólo una granfiesta! ♫
Ah, Miami. It’s not the best of sports towns. Our fans are known to arrive late (mostly because a large percentage of the fan base is driving from Broward County into Miami-Dade County to get to the game) and leave early (again, the long drive, thanks to no real public transportation, and we have to work in the morning). Much of the population is from elsewhere so they tend to keep allegiances to their home teams. In fact, you’ll see far more New York Yankees fans in South Florida than Miami Marlins fans. The sports fans aren’t exactly traditional, either, but I will say this: Miami offers quite an interesting baseball experience that you should definitely see for yourself.
As a child, we all remember the first time our fathers took us to the ballpark. We remember the smell of the grass, the taste of our first ballpark hot dog, and we basked in all the glory of America’s pastime. Well, if you go to a Marlins game, it’s not America’s pastime in the traditional sense. It’s Latin America’s pastime. And that’s pretty cool. Menus for concession stands are written in both English and Spanish. In fact, there are some specifically Latin-focused concession stands that offer hot pressed Cuban sandwiches (better known as the medianoche), plantain chips, beef empanadas, mini tequeños, and arepas. You can wash it down with a mojito if you want, otherwise the beer selection is alright (I never knew you could get Corona Light on tap).
I did search for some bacon options because I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t come across much, but the BBQ pulled pork bacon burger in section 205 is worth the hike even if you’re on the opposite side of the ballpark. But let’s be honest, ordering the typical ballpark food at Marlins Park is like looking for McDonald’s while you’re on vacation in Barcelona. That’s the thing with baseball in Miami, it’s everything baseball isn’t at the other 29 venues, and they like it that way.
Instead of being really kid friendly (kudos to the New York Mets for being the most kid friendly of the teams I’ve visited) the Marlins are much more adult-focused. If you’re watching an ESPN highlight of one of Giancarlo Stanton’s jaw dropping home runs, take a look next to the bullpen in left field. You’ll notice the Clevelander. Yes, that Clevelander. It’s a satellite bar of the South Beach mainstay because what’s Miami without a little Night at the Roxbury? We’re talking full bar, swimming pool, girls in body paint, etc. The works! It might be a baseball traditionalist’s worst nightmare, but it works for “the 305.”
The ballpark, itself, is a mix of garish colors. That includes a neon green outfield wall despite the team having no neon green in its color palette. There’s a wacky art sculpture by Red Grooms in center field. It spins and sprays water after every Marlins home run. I’m not a huge fan, but art is a major theme at Marlins Park because team owner Jeffrey Loria made his money as an art dealer. You will find paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and Kenny Scharf inside if you know where to look.
The only traditionalist piece in the whole venue is the bobblehead museum located on the concourse behind home plate. And it is really cool! This place has a fish tank behind the backstop, and the whole building screams Miami. It’s brash, in your face, overflowing with Latin-American flavor, and the nightclub probably attracts more people than the game itself. The previous incarnation of the Marlins, the Florida Marlins, brought baseball to Miami. The difference is today’s Marlins have brought Miami to baseball.
If visiting ballparks is your thing, you have to include Marlins Park on your list because it’s just so different. The atmosphere isn’t electric like it is in Chicago, New York, or St. Louis, and you’re not going to meet as many knowledgeable baseball fans like you would typically find in Boston, Pittsburgh, or even Los Angeles. However, going to a game here is still worth the experience solely for an out-of-towner to see something atypical. As a traditionalist, I feel the stadium mirrors the city in which it resides. Marlins Park is lots of fun to visit, but I, personally, wouldn’t want to live there or have it be my home stadium. The spectacle can be too much show and not enough substance for me on a regular basis. But if I’m in the right mood, I love it. Hey, maybe you’ll even pick up some Miami slang while you’re there. Bro, just check it out. It’s super fun because in Miami, if there isn’t much talent on the field, pero liiiike you know there will be some in the stands.