Baseball was born in America after the battlefields of the Civil War gone quiet. We stole the outline of the game from the British and Irish, taking their game of rounders and making it our own. Miami grew from a spring training hub for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles to finally getting a team of our own in 1993.
The initial seasons were heady. In four short years, the Florida Marlins took a wild card slot in the National League pennant race to the World Series where the Fish beat the Cleveland Indians in dramatic fashion.
The relationship between the Marlins and Miami has been up and down ever since that championship season. Wayne Huizenga, Blockbuster Video founder and cranky billionaire, soon resented the high cost of running a professional baseball team and traded away the star players of the 1997 team, dulling the luster of the franchise. Huizenga sold the team the next year to investment banker John Henry. Henry chafed at having to pay rent to Huizenga, who owned the Dolphins and had the lease on Dolphins Stadium. His quest was to have a ballpark that the Marlins could call their own.
Henry didn’t succeed. Four years later, the Marlins were shuffled in a three way team swap. It was a Tinker to Evers to Chance move. Henry left Miami to own the Boston Red Sox, while Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria took over the Marlins. Loria pressed hard—very hard—to get a new stadium, even flirting with Las Vegas and Portland, Oregon and threatening to move the team.
Eventually, the stadium was approved and built, but not without much controversy. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled largely because of his support of the County’s $376 million contribution to the construction cost. The resentment between sports fans and the Marlins’ front office tamped the enthusiasm for the Marlins.
The Marlins are now owned by a group led by former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Even before officially taking over, Jeter cut ties with at least nine executives —team president David Samson, four baseball-operations vice presidents, and four special assistants. The Jeter group has moved to distance itself from the ownerships of the past and begin a new future in Miami.
To paraphrase Pumbaa, the warthog from The Lion King who spoke like Yogi Berra, we need to put our past in our behind.
CEO Derek Jeter said this in a recent interview with MLB Network: “We’re fixing something that was broken. We’re trying to build an organization that year in and year out we have an opportunity to win. We’re not trying to win one time. We’re trying to have the opportunity every year to win… We want our fan base to come out and support our guys and get to know our players.
They will enjoy getting to know them, more importantly, they will enjoy how our team goes about playing the game.”
We need to look past the sins of Huizenga, Henry, and Loria and focus on today, because Miami needs baseball as much as baseball needs Miami.
But the fans aren’t listening. For the first seven home games this season so far, the Marlins have been averaging 9,576 attendees — in a park built to hold 36,742. It’s new owners, new team, and a new Marlins Park. The funky monstrosity in center field is gone. They’ve introduced a value meal, meaning you won’t have get an advance on your paycheck just to feed your kids at the game. And food has become more Miami with the additions of Miami’s Best Pizza, PINCHO, Novecento, SuViche and two concepts by José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup — Butterfly Tacos y Tortas and La Pepa.
Home game weekends feature Little Havana Nights on Friday presented by Estrella Jalisco, where your ticket includes an Estrella Jalisco beer, water or soda, and featured items from the re-concepted concessions. Saturday games will host the Park Before Dark, with an earlier start time (6:10 p.m.), postgame fireworks and concerts, and then hit the town for one action-packed Saturday night. And the first 10,000 fans will receive exclusive Marlins swag. Sundays are Fundays with family-oriented activities pre- and postgame. Before the games, there will be activities in the Home Plate Atrium near Section 15 on the Promenade Level.
After the game, kids ages 14 and under can then take the field for the UHealth Diamond Dash to run the bases. The first 5,000 kids ages 14 and under on Sundays will receive Marlins swag prior to every Sunday home game that will dress them from head to toe in new team gear over the course of the season.
Overall, the team has held the line on ticket prices and even lowered them for some categories. Tickets are as low as $10 per game, making it a better value than going to a movie.
The Marlins are giving back to our community. For the littlest players, they’ve launched the Miami Marlins Tee Ball Initiative, presented by Ultimate Software, donating uniforms, hats, and equipment to recreational tee ball programs in Miami-Dade County. These savings lower registration costs, increasing the potential number of children playing. Leagues will be presented with a Marlins banner, and teams will be provided Marlins-branded batting tees and baseballs. The kids will get a Miami Marlins hat, jersey, drawstring bag, complimentary Billy’s Bunch Membership, a complimentary ticket voucher to a 2019 Marlins home game, and a Miami Marlins Youth Baseball and Softball Toolkit. The toolkit will be a great resource for players, coaches and parents, and features a welcome letter from Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson.
In the past, they’ve partnered with organizations like Dibia DREAM, Guitars Over Guns, Special Olympics Florida – Miami-Dade County, The Education Fund, so many more. The Marlins Foundation sponsors charitable events throughout the year. Its Ballpark Buddies programs provide free tickets to at-risk youth.
Just this past November, the organization committed $170,000 to completely renovate the four baseball fields at Tropical Park, reconditioning the in-field clay, drainage improvements, and re-grading the outfield turf and ensuring future generations have a quality facility to learn America’s Pastime.
We can argue for days if the baseball moves will work out in the end, but we cannot question the fact that this ownership and this team are committed to Miami and being a part of our community.
The Marlins are making an impact on the community that will benefit generations to come. They deserve our support. We need to cheer on pitchers Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, Nick Anderson, and the others. We need to celebrate every win, every homer, every hit, every stolen base or gloriously impossible outfield catch.
Actor Peter Gallagher once said, “To stay on the map you’ve got to keep showing up.”
It’s time that we as a community do our part and start showing up for the Marlins.