By Craig Davis, Craigslegz.com
MIAMI – It will go down as one of those embarrassing occurrences that seem to gravitate to the Miami Marlins like gum to a sneaker.
On Opening Day of the 2015 baseball season, with a rare sell-out crowd in attendance, they managed to have a rain delay in their state-of-the-art ballpark that features a retractable roof intended to shield players and fans from the elements.
In the grand scheme, it wasn’t a big deal, a 16-minute interruption in the game between the Marlins and Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park. But as many observers pointed out, it was so typical of a franchise that has a knack for stumbling over their own feet.
It often seems to happen on Opening Day. One year they ran out of hotdogs. On another, a sky diver wearing the costume of their mascot, Billy the Marlin, was supposed to parachute in to the previous stadium. But the marlin head came off in mid-flight and he had to abort the mission and land outside to avert the embarrassing spectacle of a headless mascot landing on the field.
Months later, someone found Billy’s head by a creek and left it on a wall next to the turnpike.
David Samson, the team president, did his best to make light of the latest snafu. He admitted he relied on a $4 app on his smartphone that showed an isolated storm cell moving to the north, away from the ballpark.
Consequently, he didn’t order the roof closed until the downpour sent fans scurrying for cover on the concourse and the umpires were forced to halt play.
It took about 13 minutes to get the roof closed, and the show went on. Meanwhile, the visiting Braves rained on the Marlins’ hopes to get the season underway with a victory, stealing the day 2-1.
The incident did generate comic relief. When Samson informed owner Jeffrey Loria that the rain delay was inevitable, he replied, “I thought we had a roof.”
Soon after a new Twitter account surfaced as MarlinsRoof with the initial tweet, “Sorry about that, #Marlins fans. I was in the shower. What’d I miss?”
Then came the wry explanation: “It’s not my fault! #Marlins told me it was OPENING day!”
The retractable roof was the big selling point for the $515 million ballpark that opened in 2012 in Little Havana on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl.
The deal that drew heavily on public funding for construction of the facility created considerable outrage in South Florida, got several of the politicians who supported it voted out of office and remains a sore subject.
But for anyone who simply enjoys watching baseball, Marlins Park is a gem, particularly on a sizzling Sunday afternoon or a teeming tropical night. It was designed to capture the unique ambience of Miami and stand apart from the more traditional stadiums around the major leagues.
The open concourse affords a view of action on the field from any vantage point. The Budweiser bar above left field is a popular spot to gather and possibly catch a home run ball from Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The Clevelander nightclub behind the fence in left field has a pool and body-painted dancers.
The concessions are varied and tasty by ballpark standards. The bobblehead museum, with all the heads of past and present baseball greats nodding in unison, is worth a stop before the game. The gaugy home run sculpture in center field is a conversation piece for debate.
But the retractable roof is the MVP of Marlins Park.
A week into the season, when the Marlins opened a series in Atlanta, the teams had teo endure rain delays of 52 and 39 minutes.
The Braves are building a stadium in the suburbs that will open in 2017. It will not have a roof, so rain delays will remain a fact of of baseball there.
As for inclement weather invading Marlins Park again, Samson said, “I don’t think you’ll see that again. It won’t happen again.”
View photo gallery from Opening Day at Marlins Park.