Thinking about going to Marlins Park to see a ballgame this year? You’ll be glad you did, but I can make your baseball outing a little bit better with some tips. Think of this as your step-by-step plan for awesome-ness.
Nineteen years ago, my step-father took me to the first game in Marlins history (Charlie Hough vs. L.A. Dodgers). My step-dad’s name was Ralph Kent, and he’s the creator of Billy the Marlin, who I think is now my step-brother, or something like that.)
Going To Marlins Park
Some friends of mine (Emack, Dwyne, George and Dee) joined me for the 2012 Opening Day at Marlins Park when the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals came into town. We learned several things that night, including – don’t bring a writer (Emack) that has a deadline that night because you’ll be waiting for him an hour after the game. It’s like going to Disney and bringing a janitor that has to clean up after it closes, and you have to wait by the closed down monorail.
Where You Should Park … at Marlins Park
There’s a lot of talk about how few parking spots there are at this stadium, but it’s not too different from many ballparks, like Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field. But since there was miles and miles and miles of available parking spots at Sun Life Stadium, since hardly anyone ever went, people got spoiled. If you’ve ever been to the Orange Bowl for a Hurricanes game, then you’ve dealt with their parking. It’s not great, but it’s not the end of the world. And you get to buy grilled Italian sausages and arepas (Latin American cheese/corncakes) on your way back to your car!
They’ve added a bunch of spaces and the one we parked at was just $10, and just a couple blocks northeast of the stadium (No. 7 lot on the map). (While searching for this map, I came across this Marlins blog you might enjoy: I Want To Go to the Strip Club With Giancarlo Stanton. In that blog, it lists other things that manager Ozzie Guillen likes, besides Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, including Boyz II Men, Puppies, Thundercats and That sugary powder at the bottom of a box of Lucky Charms!)
When you walk south to the stadium from the north, you’ll see a “You Are Here” map, but when you look at it, you’ll realize You Aren’t Here. They have the map set up with north as north, which means your “You Are Here” star is on the top right of the map, even though your brain is telling you to look at the bottom-left to find – you. Once you figure out you don’t exist, you then just walk up the left side of the stadium, where they have several huge orange letters planted into the ground. It’s cool looking, and kinda artsy. We think they were trying to spell “F-I-R-E-S-A-L-E-2-0-1-4.” (Nope, I found out they were spelling out “Miami Orange Bowl.” So close.)
What You Should Do Before a Marlins Game
If batting practice is going on, you’ll want to park yourself in front of the Budweiser Skyline Bar in left field (above the foo-foo Clevelander). Get between the bar and the field – and wait for the practice balls to get tossed up your way by the players shagging balls. My dad once came up the concourse at a ballgame with a beer in each hand – he caught a one-bounce foul ball into one of his beers! Try to do that – it’s such a great story! (The people around him hated him, though, since they were covered in beer.)
As you look around the concourse, you’ll notice that the Marlins’ lineup is posted on pillars all around the stadium. I thought this was a pretty cool idea – and other teams will soon steal it! (Unless the Marlins already stole it from someone else.)
The 200 concourse area is nice – it’s completely open so you can see/hear the action while you’re getting food/beer.
Also, on the 200 level, there are plenty of stop-and-see items, like a tribute area for the long and storied history of the Orange Bowl, which is where the stadium now stands. Cardinals CF Jon Jay got a big hand when he was announced, since he was a former Miami Hurricanes player. If the crowds stand up, that could be a pretty cool tradition as former Canes baseball players like Padres 1B Yonder Alonso, Brewers OF Ryan Braun, Indians closer Chris Perez, and Athletics 2B Jemile Weeks comes to town.
Another strange/fun concourse check-it-out piece was the “The Bobblehead Museum” where over 580 bobbleheads reside. It was crowded when I got near it, but I was able to spot Cecil Cooper, Steve Garvey, Hank Aaron and Todd Van Poppel. (OK, the last one was a lie.)
And I haven’t even mentioned the retractable roof yet. In a little over six minutes, the roof and the left-field windows were opened up, creating a great breeze coming in off the coast.
What You Should Eat at Marlins Park
Before you see some of the horrible mistakes we made on the 2012 Opening Night, you should know that I have since gone back to Marlins Park, found the “Taste of Miami,” section, and now deem that area to be one of the best places for food in ALL of baseball!
I was really excited to try some of the food here, since it was supposed to be much different than most stadium concessions. It was good. It was better than usual, but it didn’t knock my socks off. The fish tacos were beautiful, but they were too messy, without enough fish. Later on, for Dinner II: The Sequel, I got a hot dog. Anyone going to Marlins Park has to get a hot dog. It’s the law. It was actually pretty damn good. Plump, juicy, great bun. I think they might have even buttered and grilled the buns, as a nice touch. However, I think they were wearing boxing gloves when they opened up our buns to put in the hot dogs. It was like when the bag boy puts a carton of milk on top of your Wonder Bread. Even so, great ballpark frank!
We also got the popcorn, mostly because it said it came in a souvenir bowl (Stanton was pictured on this bowl!) But when we got it, we realized it was just a cardboard bowl – how is that a souvenir? Butter-covered cardboard that you can’t wash? Worst souvenir since the Giants had “Used Syringe Night” in 2004.
George had a cheeseburger that he said was cold, but he’s Australian, sooooo …
Emack said the cheeseburgers were good. He also asked Louisville head coach – and Miami resident — Rick Pitino what he thought and he said the park seems “tremendous.”
There was also a “Taste of Miami” section, with local foods like ceviche and croquetas, but I missed it somehow. Likely because I was drinking a “Taste of St. Louis” breweries.
One thing I missed and will definitely eat first on my next trip was the Nachos with Chipotle Cheese sauce. It looked too good to be real. I felt unworthy.
The Thing Whose Name We Shall Not Speak
OK, the crazy thing in left-center field that will go off when the Marlins hit homers – I won’t speak its name, mostly because I don’t know its name. The 73-foot sculpture was created by artist Red Grooms and it has been lambasted in local and national media. But even before I saw it in person, I thought, “People hate it because they aren’t Marlins fans. Even the people that live down here and hate it are mostly Mets or Yankees fans and they’re just bitter.” And then, when I saw it before the game started, I thought, “That’s actually pretty awesome.” Sure, it’s flashy, but in the context of the whole stadium, it’s a fun piece that adds something unique to this park.
And then … they turned it on during the pregame celebration.
Did you ever see “The Fly” with Jeff Goldblum? Do you remember the scene when a mutated Golbdlum fly-guy comes out all mangled up and pukes on a guy? Well, seeing the Home Run thing in action reminded me of that, only less sexual. Marlins shouldn’t be doing backflips.
As long as this park stays a pitcher’s park, maybe we won’t need to see that many home run celebrations after all.
Where Your Seats Should Be
We sat in the upper level (300) behind home plate and really loved the view. But the 300-level concourse is definitely detached from the action and you can’t see the field like you can on the 200-level. Our group talked and we decided the three best spots to watch the game would be – from most expensive to least expensive – first base line lower level, left-field foul line, left field bleachers, right field bleachers, then the 300 level behind home plate.
Anything on the first-base side should have a great view of downtown through the sweet sliding glass doors behind the Budweiser bar.
Our suggestion? Buy the cheapest ticket you can find, and hang out at the Budweiser bar for the entire game. You get an awesome breeze, perfect sight lines, quick access to beer and a chance at home run balls.
I consider going to Marlins Park as a complete success, The whole stadium was a complete success, as well, when you don’t consider the price tag or the parking or the expected indifference of the fans. The building itself is majestic and the festivities inside are unique and enjoyable.
Life is good right now for the Marlins and their fans. Hopefully, this stadium helps sway some borderline fans into the seats regularly.
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.