Sunday, April 1, 2012
First Pitch: Everyone in the Fish Tank!
Every new venue wants to book a blockbuster act for its opening night, and the Miami (nee: Florida) Marlins are no exception.
So of course, they invited the Yankees to help them open Marlins Park (a/k/a The Fish Tank), their brand-spanking-new, half-a-billion dollar retractable roof ballpark, with two games here beginning this afternoon.
And not only do they get the Yankees, they get the whole schmear: CC Sabathia starting today, the entire regular starting lineup, and even Mariano Rivera, who hasn't made a road trip since back in the 1900s, will be in the bullpen in a gray uniform, ready to go.
And it marks the return to Miami of one Joseph Elliott Girardi, who managed here for one season -- in dreary a old yard known at the time as Dolphin Stadium, which in previous lives had been known as Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Stadium and now goes by Sun Life Stadium -- won 78 games and the Manager of the Year Award but still managed to get himself fired after telling his boss, Jeffrey Loria, to shut up.
A lot has happened to Girardi and the Marlins since then, and even though he misused the word "anxious'' to describe his feeling about his return, it was clear that he meant he was eager to revisit the site of his first managerial job.
"They really needed it,'' he said of the new park, which will seat 37,000, the third-smallest capacity in the major leagues. But then, when Girardi worked here, the Marlins could barely put 14,000 people into a joint built to hold 75,000.
"The stadium lease that they had wasn't great and it was hard for them to keep their players that they, you know, were grooming, as they got to higher salary levels,'' he said. "They just couldn’t do it. Maybe this will help.''
A big part of the problem, of course, is the subtropical South Florida weather, which is always wet and often intolerably hot. Presumably, the retractable roof solves that problem and the addition of players such as Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Carlos Zambrano and new manager Ozzie Guillen does the rest.
Girardi chose to share only fond memories of the place when we chatted about it Saturday morning. "The year I was there, it wasn’t like that,'' he said of the Brazilian rainforest-like conditions. "It was unbelievable. We only had a couple of rain delays. I think people have always talked about the threat of rain and the heat as concerns about going to the ballpark. But all those problems are cleared up now. Just as long as the AC works all the time.''
The question: With a new ballpark, new manager and a new-look roster, do you think Miami can finally become a baseball town?
Up Now: My column on why anyone who thinks the Yankees got duped in the Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero trade might be jumping the gun a little bit. Also, all the news out of Kissimmee, where the baseballs were flying like saucers and one Yankee prospect, Dante Bichette Jr., had the day of his baseball life. So far.
On-deck circle: Traffic and parking are supposed to be a nightmare at the new park so hopefully I'll get there in time for the opening of the clubhouse this morning. I'll be blogging all day from the game, then it's off to Sun Life for Wrestlemania XXVIII with Alex Rodriguez, Mike Tyson and a cast of 75,000 others. (OK, so we'll all be there, but maybe not together). Full report coming.