MIAMI A fan exiting Marlins Park after Saturday’s Select-a-Seat tour as I was heading up the ramp noticed my camera.
“Take a lot of pictures,” he said. “This is the most incredible structure I’ve ever seen.”
Maybe he was David Samson’s uncle. Unlikely -- he was a lot taller. What is clear is the Marlins couldn’t script more effective advertising than simply opening the gate and letting fans see for themselves.
While fans were buying tickets, I was snapping photos from various vantage points. You can view some of them in this PHOTO GALLERY.
I’ve been on several tours of the park, but this was the first time I’ve had a chance to see fans react to it. Those we weren’t in line to discuss ticket packages were in the stands staring at the field in apparent wonderment.
“We had already purchased our tickets just based on the pictures. Then I walked in here [Saturday] and I was blown away,” said Dave Lareau, of Hollywood, who along with friend Charlie Caravella purchased a 20-game plan in right field. “Awesome. We finally have our own baseball stadium.” (Caravella and Lareau, left to right, in above photo)
It looked more like it than on my previous visits now that the field has been graded and infield dirt placed. They sod will be laid this week. The first exhibition games will be played in just over five weeks.
“It exceeds expectations,” Caravella said, and noted that the open concourse keeps the field in view at all times as you move around the field or in line at a concession stand. “The city view is nice to see from behind home plate looking out to the city.”
At the center of that view is the controversial home run feature in center field that has already been the focus of much ridicule. It is the embodiment of the tacky Floridana schlock shop with flowers, flamingos and palm trees. When a marlin hits a home run, fish will leap, gulls will soar and lights will flash.
It is being called a monstrosity, an eyesore and worse. It is bizarre. I suspect it will become oddly endearing once Mike Stanton and LoMo begin pumping homers into the seats.
Imagine the jolt it will have to the psyche of the opposing pitcher.
“Maybe a little too art deco. But it gives character, I guess,” Caravella said.
Lareau said: “When they first unveiled the new logo, we were like, ‘How ugly can that be? Geez, what the heck do they think Miami is.’ But it’s growing on me. Every time I see it now, more and more I like it.”
He glanced toward the home run feature, and added, “That was a little too wild, though.”
My view: Be a sourpuss, if you want, about the kitschy logo, colors and wacky home run celebration. Grumble about the shady maneuvering to obtain public money to build the ballpark, it’s valid. Be skeptical about traffic flow and parking.
But the Marlins are on the threshold of being fun for the first time in their history, except for those two World Series runs. That is, fun on a nightly basis, no matter how soupy and miserable it is outside the dome.
So cue the flamingos and jumping fish and let it whirl. Marlins fans finally have reason to smile.
Provided, that is, as Lareau, pointed out: “The reality is they can pretty this up as much as they want. Until we get a winning ball team … They did do a really nice job this [offseason]. I’m really happy with some of the moves they’ve made.”
One observation: Five weeks to “Play ball” there is still a lot of work to be done. Perhaps they’ll bring in Robert Irvine from “Restaurant Impossible” to whip it into shape in the final two days.
Photos: Inside Marlins Park at Select-a-Seat tour on Jan. 28. (Craig Davis, Sun Sentinel)