I should start this by explaining that I come from baseball crazed island in the Caribbean called Puerto Rico. Baseball fans know Puerto Rico as the place that gave the world Roberto Clemente and Roberto Alomar. The rest of the world collectively asks “What the hell is Porto Rico?”. It’s a kind of place where celebrations are held for days when we beat the United States in the World Baseball Classic, only to drown our sorrow of losing to the Dominican Republican with the copious amount of rum that is on the island. It’s a great place. The only thing we don’t have here is an actual Major League Baseball team. We try to make up for it with the winter league, but it’s not the same. Because of this, most Puerto Ricans are fans of the New York Yankees, probably because people down here have a lot of family up there. I despise the Yankees so im a baseball outcast over here because I happen to be the only mutt that actually roots for the closest team to our island.
The perpetually in a fire sale team known as the Miami Marlins.
Ahh, and to think, I could have been Yankees fan. Instead I live and die for a team that constantly breaks my heart by giving away my favorite players and choosing to be in last place by “rebuilding”. Still, I love that team and nothing will break my loyalty to them, no matter how hard they try. I mean, I’ve been a fan since 1997 when I was one year old, watching them win the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. Then when they won the 2003 World Series as an eight year old was arguably the greatest sporting experience of my life. It’s also my favorite team in my favorite sport, so obviously there’s a little more passion. Especially when I go to watch an actual major league game.
Because of where I live, I revel in the glory of going to watch an actual game live. It’s just an amazing experience to go to a baseball park in the states and watch professional teams play against each other. It’s always a fun time, well except when the Marlins get their tails kicked. But one of the cooler baseball experiences I try to do every year is Opening Day.
The first opening day I ever experienced was the inaugural season of the new Marlins Park. Even though I love watching baseball live, I would be lying if I said that going over to Pro Player, or whatever it’s called now, and watching baseball in a football stadium was a great time. So I was incredibly excited for the new park and for that season, just like all Marlins fans and just like all marlin fans, I got dumped on by the overall crappiness of the team and management. I didn’t go last year to opening day, not because I didn’t want but because of school and other important developments in my life. I gladly would have gone again just for that experience of watching a season begin, with all the hope that comes with it. This year I finally got another chance to watch my team on opening day and there was no way I was gonna let it pass.
The three-hour plane ride from San Juan to Miami wasn’t particularly interesting except for the absolutely awful in flight entertainment American Airlines was presenting. I’m glad I don’t watch NBC anymore. Anyways, I arrived Friday night and was picked up by my partner in crime for this experience. My dad and I have been going to baseball games for years. We joke that it’s our best bonding experience. I mean he did take me to that game 7 of the World Series in 1997, so I guess it’s true. There were twenty-four hours before first pitch and you better believe that I couldn’t have been more excited.
Every baseball fan who has gone through a season where their team comes in last place, has the same conversation with either their buddy or parent who loves th game. Most probably during a car ride before the season starts.
“I really hope we don’t suck as hard as last night.”
“You have such little faith, this is gonna a season where we surprise everyone.”
“Maybe, but we always say that and then suck harder than before.”
“It’ll be different this year cause we have the talent to make a lot of noise.”
“Alright, you may have a point, maybe this will be the year that we finally dominate.”
This is a condensed version of the conversation I had with my dad while getting to the stadium for opening day. There was definitely more cursing and optimism that could not possibly be put on paper and still come off the same way. But every year brings a new sense of optimism for every team and this year was no different. We talked about how our pitching is so excellent that we could be like the San Francisco Giants and ride our pitching into the World Series. Stanton is gonna have a season that blows everyone out of the park. Jose Fernandez is going to win the Cy Young award while the rotation develops four ace type players. Yeah it was a little crazy, but that’s what opening day does to people. It makes them think crazy thoughts like Tom Koehler can become a front of the rotation starter. It’s just awesome, especially when you start to see the park coming closer to you. I know Marlins Park gets a lot of crap from people but I can’t help myself. I absolutely love it and I’m so glad Miami finally got a baseball park. It was long overdue and as we pulled into the third base garage, it was hard to contain my excitement for the upcoming game. We got to the entrance at around 5:30 pm and we were bombarded with game schedule calendars, game magazines, and of course the big K for every time Jose Fernandez strikes out a batter. I had seen Fernandez pitch a few times during his amazing rookie season, with the best being his 12 strikeout performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was definitely the real deal and I loved the amount energy and passion he brought to every game.
We walked into the park and it was surprisingly packed. Miami fans aren’t exactly known for their undying loyalty to teams, but I guess since it was opening day there was going to be a lot of people. My dad and I decided to walk around and check out the ballpark. No matter how many times we go to any park, we always do that. I guess we always want to see if there is anything new or at least get acclimated to the baseball environment. We passed by the eyesore that is the home run sculpture, saw Mr. Marlin doing his pre-game show, saw the ESPN set up, bought our obligatory peanuts, and looked out into the beautiful Miami skyline. By the time we were done, it was time for the pre-game ceremonies.
My dad decided to get some awesome tickets for the special occasion and we sat on the third base line, five rows behind the Marlins dugout. We could see everything perfectly and I couldn’t have asked for better seats. Next to us we had some interesting characters who we talked to for the entirety of the game. To our left, a lawyer who worked for a few major league teams in the past who seemed to always have an opinion about everything that happened in the game. So much so, that his infant son asked him “Why he always had to talk to everyone whenever something happened?” He wore some thick college glasses, had curly gray hair, and bigger nose than most people. To our right, it was almost the complete opposite. There was this father-son group that could be lovingly called very southern. Wearing their john Deere or vintage Marlins hat, sporting big old beards and drinking beer like if it were god’s juice, these guys had come down from Tampa to watch the game. They seemed almost stereotypical in appearance and accent, but they were incredibly friendly during the course of the game. It’s weird how Miami works, where you get nerdy businessmen and rednecks in the same row. Go figure.
The game was approaching first pitch and it wouldn’t be a Marlins opening day of something didn’t go as planned. In 2012, there was the incredible awkwardness of Muhammad Ali’s entrance, 2013′s Groupon fiasco, and this year KC from KC and the sunshine band, had a bad microphone and while singing the national anthem it kept losing audio. The home crowd tried singing the rest of it to cover up for it, so you can imagine. Dan Marino threw out the first pitch and he surprisingly got it all the way to home plate, I guess that Nutrisystem is working out pretty well for him.
Finally, it was time for baseball. I took out my trustee scoring kit and was ready for the season to begin. Of course I have a total brain fart and forget how to number the outfield. But it doesn’t matter, one of the best pitchers on the planet is about to pitch against a loaded Rockies lineup. I was expecting a close game. I didn’t expect the kind of night that would come.
If you want a full recap of the entire game, you can read a recap by following this link. I’m not gonna recap the entire game but there were plenty of memorable moments.
Fernandez got six frickin strikeouts in three innings of work. I turned over to my dad and wondered if we were in for a 12 strikeout game, spoiler: we weren’t. But Fernandez pitched a masterful game and it was grandiose as all hell. Marcell Ozuna was a triple shy of the cycle. When he struck out in his final at bat, the entire crowd shrugged in disappointment. Also, not a big deal but THE MARLINS SCORED 10 RUNS! In 2013, they were a historically bad offensive team so you must forgive that sudden outburst. It was just incredibly surprising, I mean only three starters didn’t get a hit and one of them was the pitcher. Ozuna and Hechavarria had three hits each, which for Hechavarria was almost a miracle in of itself. Yelich and Stanton both two hits, I mean I could go on but my god was it impressive. The bullpen shut down the Rockies and they were basically down after the Carlos Gonzalez home run. The most interesting part was when Jorge De La Rosa, the Rockies starting pitcher, yelled at his pitching coach and stormed off the mound. It was surreal, and then we scored five runs after that outburst, so I’m pretty sure we got into his head a little bit. It’s always fun to see the other team implode before your very eyes. Stanton’s walk-up music is “Versace”, that’s arguably the funniest thing I have ever seen.
10-1, 2014 Opening Day
I’d say that’s a pretty good opening day.
For a kid who has followed baseball in a baseball crazy place, it was an amazing experience to watch my team actually exceed the expectations I had going into it. Maybe the Marlins will suck in 2014 or maybe they’ll win the World Series, it doesn’t matter. As I fly away from Miami back home, I can only say that I can’t wait for some more baseball. But I don’t think there will ever be an opening day like this one.