MIAMI Not only have the Marlins hit a rough patch on the field, so has their field.
Brown patches of grass were scattered throughout the playing surface at Marlins Park during the last homestand.
“I would say that the sod had as difficult an April as the team did,” Marlins President David Samson said after the Marlins lost three of four to the Diamondbacks and ended the opening month of the season 8-14.
The Marlins are considering bringing in grow lamps with the field getting less sunlight than anticipated.
“It’s been difficult because it’s only getting about four hours of sun when we expected it to be eight or nine,” Samson said. “It’s been raining a lot during the day, more than it normally would in April. That’s been causing the roof to be closed more than we thought it would be -- I’m talking about non-game times.”
Before Opening Day, the Marlins replaced sod in deep right field that was receiving more shade than the rest of the field. Moving into the summer months, that area will get better exposure as the earth shifts relative to the sun.
The problems with the turf became more widespread as the month progressed. If it cannot be corrected, it could be necessary to replace the whole field, Samson acknowledged. That has happened at other stadiums with retractable roofs.
Samson said there are no plans to switch to artificial turf.
“Natural grass will work here. If we need lights, then we need lights,” Samson said. “In summer it starts raining at 4. We always calculated the roof would be open untill then, and that would be enough sun. We still think that.
“We knew going in that other retractable-roof ballparks had to make adjustments for one or two years to get their field right. We hoped that we’d get it right the first time. So far it’s not right. We’re going to keep experimenting and find a way to make it better.”
The turf in Marlins Park is a strain of Bermuda grass called Celebration, which is commonly used in Florida on golf courses and athletic fields.
Celebration was chosen because it does well in shade, a consideration with the retractable roof. It was one of three types of grass the Marlins tested for nine months in full sun and partial shade.
With the Marlins away for 10 days, the field was due to receive intensive care in an attempt to nurse it to health. Within an hour after Monday’s game ended, a crew had begun work aerating the infield grass.
The top of the ballpark was also receiving attention after water leaked in several spot above right field during Sunday’s heavy rain. Samson said workers were up there sealing the joints between roof panels where the water was coming in. Their efforts appeared successful on Monday despite continued rain.
Asked what was done, Samson joked, “They put gum on it? I don’t know. They do something to seal it.”
The ballpark was the standout performer of the Marlins’ opening month, which was marred by manager Ozzie Guillen’s infamous endorsement of Fidel Castro and subsequent suspension, as well as the team’s lack of hitting and three blown saves by closer Heath Bell.
Announced paid attendance for the four games against the Diamondbacks was 31,949, 33,525, 34,918 and 31,006.
Actual attendance for Monday’s matinee was considerably less than announced, though 12,000 students for Weather Day created a lively atmosphere. The no-shows weren’t surprising considering the 12:40 p.m. start at the beginning of the work week and the second consecutive day of torrential rain.
The Sunday and Monday games could not have been played without the retractable roof, and Saturday’s game may have had delays.
After 11 home games, the Marlins ranked 14th in the major leagues and eighth in the National League with an average paid attendance of 30,681, according to Major League Baseball.
The Marlins are soliciting feedback about the ballpark and related issues. Visit Marlins.com, click on the “Marlins Park” and “Contact Us,” and select the feedback option. Or follow this link.
“Crowds have been great, our fans have been great. They’re reacting well to the ballpark. We’re drawing well,” Samson said. “When we mapped out April, with two exceptions, it’s been an April that has been what we had planned for. We expect May to be better on the field.”
Hopefully, for the field as well.
May did get off to a promising start for the Marlins on Tuesday night with a 2-1 victory at San Francisco. Heath Bell, reacting well to returning to the West Coast, tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his third save. He has converted all 10 of his save chances in AT&T Park.
Photo: The Marlins and the grass on their field needs improvement, but Marlins Park has been a hit during its first month. (Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
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