Baseball season just started so that means your summer ballpark road trip is that much closer! In a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below.
Next up on our list is David Hill of Marlins Diehards. Our favorite follower of fish has learned to put aside all the bad Miami Marlins baseball and controversy that surrounds the taxpayer boondoggle to enjoy nine innings inside baseball's newest ballpark. As his site's tagline points out, "at least the A/C is on."
Welcome to Marlins Park! No, the product on the field isn't top-notch, but the facilities and gameday experience at Marlins Park in Miami are actually now quite good. The one-year-old stadium is climate-controlled (when the roof is closed, as it is most nights), comfortable, and has plenty of diversions to offer in case the Marlins are getting blown out (which might happen a bunch this season). Here are 10 tips to optimize your next trip to Marlins Park.
1. The parking scene: True, you can park in one of the stadium's garages, but as anyone who used to attend Miami Hurricanes football games at the Orange Bowl can tell you, there's nothing like paying to park in someone's front yard (which may or may not have a resident rooster keeping watch) and wandering through Little Havana on your way to the stadium. Last year I parked three blocks from the stadium one September Saturday evening (for $10 — not the windfall residents expected when the stadium opened). A child's birthday party was being held in a yard across the street, with children jumping in a bounce castle while Lil' Wayne was bumpin on the stereo. This is one of the most anodyne things I have seen around that neighborhood, which tells you everything you need to know.
2. Speaking of the Orange Bowl ... : One of the nicer touches in the stadium's design is an art installation along the East Plaza outside Marlins Park. The letters from the old Orange Bowl's facade have been recreated as standalone pieces stuck in the concrete promenade. Designed by Miami native Daniel Arsham, it's as if the old sign fell apart into the concrete during construction, an inventive nod to the history of the stadium site. You should also check out the Orange Bowl history exhibit in sections 24-25 of the main concourse.
3. The bobblehead museum: This one gets a lot of publicity, and for good reason, it's totally mesmerizing. Hundreds upon hundreds of bobbleheads sit in an enormous glass enclosure in section 15, getting jiggled every minute or so by ingenious shifting shelves. There are plenty of Marlins represented in the museum, but every franchise is featured, and even the greatest bobblehead of all time (Vin Scully, duh) is in the collection.
4. The monstrosity in centerfield: We remain one of the biggest defenders of the gaudy mechanical monster in Marlins Park (designed by Red Grooms). Its tackiness (we hope intended) and neon day-glo aura really condense everything that people like and hate about Miami into one monolith that looms over the outfield. And seriously, when someone hits a home run and the thing lights up, you'll find yourself saying "That's awesome." You're only human, after all.
5. The seats: You must have heard by now that the Marlins are having a bit of trouble selling tickets this year. The upshot? You can buy a cheap ticket and move closer to the action as the game wears on. Hate Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and don't want to give him any more money? There's always the secondary market, where you'll get better value for your dollar anyway. Unless you're looking for more than the typical ballgame experience, in which case you should head over to ...
6. The Clevelander: The world famous hotel and bar scene from South Beach has a satellite venue beyond the Marlins Park left field wall. You'll need to buy a special ticket to get in, but if you're into scantily-clad women hanging out by the pool (seriously, there's a pool), it'll be worth your while. Plus, you can watch Miami Heat games on the bar TV.
7. Want to catch a dinger? The bar in left field isn't a bad place to park yourself (as a bonus, you can turn around and gaze at the Miami skyline through the floor-to-ceiling windows beyond the concourse). You can also get seats in the balcony just above the left field wall if you want to sit closer to the field (and the home run structure). The right field bleachers are a good spot as well, since the right field fence is a tad shallower than the left field fence. Either way, you'll have to walk halfway around the stadium if you want a decent beer...
8. Microbrews: This stadium is sadly deficient in this area. There is one small kiosk in the main concourse behind home plate (usually either section 14 or 15) that sells a rotating selection of microbrews. The rest of the stadium has your standard American lagers, with some adding Shock Top. Someone must not have told Loria that microbrews can be sold at a higher price point for better margins.
9. The food, on the other hand: If you're looking for something more than a ballpark hot dog or bag of peanuts, go for a pan con lechon from Papo Llega y Pon at the Taste of Miami stand in section 27. Even a vegetarian like myself has been known to cheat for the sake of Cuban food. This pork sandwich will change your life. The mahi mahi tacos at Miami Mex (in section 4) are also delicious. There are also hot dogs and pizza, but you'd be insane not to check out the local cuisine options in the stadium.
10. After the game: The economic revival of Little Havana that the team promised before construction of Marlins Park has yet to materialize, so there is very little in terms of postgame watering holes and diversions in the neighborhood surrounding the stadium. So you'll have to look elsewhere for something to do after the game. Hop on the Dolphin Expressway north of the stadium, and South Beach is just a 15-minute drive away.
Have any special tips for Marlins Park? Share them in the comments below!
Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park