Last week I visited Florida for the first time for my sisters' graduation. I decided to check out Marlins Park since I was in town and my ultimate goal is to visit every single MLB stadium. I had high hopes considering the fact that it was a weekday game and it was a Marlins home game so I expected no competition for graphing. My goal was to get Ryne Sandberg's autograph.
I decided to go to Marlins Park early hoping to check out the entire stadium and so I could take a bunch of touristy pictures. When I arrived I found out from security that they open the stadium 1.5 hours before the game starts. I felt that it was not fan friendly and the Marlins are the last team that should be acting like this since they need fans desperately. Cutting BP short by half an hour cuts into graphing/ballhawking time and it totally makes no sense since most stadiums let you in 2 hours before the game. That was the first bad sign of things to come.
Marlins Park looks like a spaceship from the exterior.
I took a few shots of the Clevelander as well and noticed that the Marlins were finishing up BP.
As soon as the gates opened I went over to the Phillies dugout and took a few pictures. The Phillies were already in the middle of BP. At any other stadium you would have been able to see the tail end of the home team finishing up BP but the management of the Marlins don't care about their fans. They dump all of their talented players through trades which is why nobody shows up to their games.
The way the stadium is configured is terrible for graphing. For one thing the VIP field level section extends into the outfield so unless you have a ticket you can't get autographs after the pitchers are finished warming up. For a stadium without any fans they are strict on who can go down these VIP areas. Thus if you don't have a ticket you are screwed. You are only allowed to hang out above the dugout but they kick you out 30 minutes before the game starts. That basically means you have 1 hour to graph and ballhawk.
The most frustrating part of of the day was that there weren't any graphers and there weren't any fans yet I couldn't graph due to the setup and also the fact that the Phillies were all allergic to the pen today. There were only five graphers today who were all out of towners like me. Each and every Phillies player and coach ignored all of our autograph requests. The only player who signed were Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins but they only signed for fans who were on the field who had field passes. The rich get richer. When we tried calling Ryan and Jimmy over they completely ignored us. Most importantly even Ryne Sandberg ignored us and didn't even look in our direction as he was entering the dugout.
Soon afterwards we got kicked out of the dugout seats. I took a photo as soon as this happened to show how empty the stadium was. Why would you kick fans out when no fans even show up to these games? Check out how empty the seats are over the dugout. The picture below is literally 10 minutes before the game started.
I thought I was going to strike out completely. It was extremely frustrating. I decided to go out to the outfield seats to hopefully get an autograph after the players were finished stretching right before the national anthem. The player who saved the day and prevented a shutout was Ben Revere. He initially signed for the fans in the VIP field level area but I called him over and told him we cannot go down there. Thus he ran over to the outfield area out of his way to sign three cards for me. Ben Revere is my new hero.
As soon as BP ended I took some more photos of how empty this stadium is. It's pathetic if you ask me but then again Jeff Loria messed up the team so I don't blame the fans not showing up.
Since I wasn't interested in actually watching the game I decided to roam around the entire stadium. I wanted to check out the famed Bobblehead Museum. Again that was another epic disappointment. When I read that they had a museum I thought the Marlins had a room full of bobbleheads on display. Boy was I wrong. It was a small display case filled with bobbleheads. Some of the bobbleheads on display were not even SGA bobbleheads but instead were those generic ones you can buy in stores. They had a lot of bobbleheads on display but they didn't have every single SGA bobblehead.
The picture above shows you what I am talking about. The bottom row is filled with the Minor League Baseball Legends Bobblehead series you can buy at a store. These were never given out as stadium giveaways. Thus I felt the entire collection was a bit diluted.
The stadium itself was nice and clean and they had wide walkways so you didn't have to bump into each other. It was more spacious than any other stadium I have ever been in but my impression can be skewed in some sense since the entire stadium was empty. It was also unique that it was a domed stadium so the weather had no role in the outcome of the game.
Overall my impression of the stadium was a bit disappointing since ownership can make this stadium a fan friendly experience but they are not doing anything about it. They have great facility which isn't being put to good use. If they want fans back the Marlins need to put a better product on the field by signing better talent, open up the stadium to the fans 2 hours before the game starts, lower parking fees (Parking was $15 aka Frank McCourt Fees), and they should let people hang out near the dugout and the field area before the game starts so that fans can have a chance to get an autograph or two and maybe a baseball as well.