Marlins Roof Closing Goes Off Without A Hitch During Soft Opening At New Ballpark
The Marlins played their first exhibition at the new downtown Miami ballpark yesterday against the Univ. of Miami, and the retractable roof "operated to perfection on its maiden voyage" when it was closed in 13 minutes, according to Clark Spencer of the MIAMI HERALD. During batting practice, with the roof open and the wind blowing out, the Marlins "peppered the 'home run sculpture,' the $2 million centerpiece of their new ballpark, with one metal-denting blast after another." Spencer also notes "poor acoustics made it difficult to make out what was being said over the public address system." Marlins President David Samson said, "It's a work in progress. These soft openings are soft openings for a reason." The Marlins will play "once more in the new park" when they face Florida Int'l Univ. tonight. For now, they are busy "working out the bugs." Samson said that the staff "sent out a questionnaire to patrons asking 'What did we miss?'" He said, "We got one from someone who wanted to know where the bathroom was for service dogs. I admitted I forgot that." But the ballpark is "making a positive impression on the players" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/7). Marlins Special Assistant to the President Tony Perez said, "It looks like a spaceship landed in Miami." In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi notes with the roof open, the ballpark "felt like a wind tunnel." Once the roof closed, "the wind disappeared." One "major change to the park was made over the past two days: the 'batter's eye' -- the section of lime green outfield wall in hitters' line of sight -- was painted black to make the ball more visible." Left-handed batters had "voiced concerns about the home run sculpture interfering with their line of sight." Overall, the Marlins "had few complaints as they made themselves comfortable in their spacious locker room" (PALM BEACH POST, 3/7).
BEST LAID PLANS: In Ft. Lauderdale, Juan Rodriguez notes the original plan for yesterday's game "was to leave the roof open and close the window panels beyond the left- and center-field walls." For tonight's game, the Marlins will "test the playing conditions with the roof closed and panels open." When the Marlins host the Yankees on April 1 "in the second-to-last soft opening, they'll close everything." The following night "they'll open it all." More areas of the ballpark opened to patrons yesterday, and services will be extended for tonight's game "with a crowd of 15,000 (5,000 more than Tuesday) expected" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/7). In Miami, Linda Robertson notes yesterday "was a good inaugural test run of the weather-proof ballpark." The air conditioning "kept fans comfortable and a stadium employee made sure by checking the temperature in different locations with a turkey thermometer." This is what taxpayers and team Owner Jeffrey Loria "shelled out $634 million to build and it worked without a hitch" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/7). In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis wrote under the header, "It Will Take Time To Tell How Marlins Park Plays." Davis noted yesterday's game "didn't shed much light on the issue." The "ultimate answer may be that it depends." Marlins 3B Hanley Ramirez said, "After they closed the roof it was totally different. There’s no wind (with it closed), but if you hit it good it’s still going to go out” (SUNSENTINEL.com, 3/6).
GETTING TANKED: ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said of Marlins Park having fish tanks in the outfield, “A lot of people are ripping this, but this is Miami. It’s not Fenway Park. ... I totally get it. They’ve tried to create something new. Miami’s different, it's not a diehard baseball city. They’re trying to make it a unique park” (“SportsNation,” ESPN2, 3/6).