MIAMI, FL: Omar Infante of the Miami Marlins rounds the bases after hitting the first home run in Marlins Park during a game against the Houston Astros at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. Both teams wore the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Sunday, the Miami Marlins got their first home run in Marlins Park, causing what you knew it would cause. Now we discuss in greater detail.
I think a lot of people end up missing baseball stories that happen over the weekend. Even intense, passionate baseball fans might be at a state of lesser awareness, if not removed completely. I'm guessing not that many people know about the Dodgers' controversial triple play on Sunday. I'm guessing not that many people know about the playing conditions in Colorado on Saturday. I'm guessing not that many people know that the Rangers just swept the Twins. But with that said, I'm guessing a lot of people know that the Marlins hit a home run at home.
I think a lot of people know, because it caused this to happen. It's the sort of thing that lives on Facebook and Twitter and gets emailed all around. Unsurprisingly, that is not a thing you expect to fly under the radar.
I want to talk about this in a little greater depth. And the first thing I want to address is that sense of "finally". I even included the word "finally" in my own headline. It feels like the Marlins set off the home-run sculpture, finally. But have we really been waiting that long? Omar Infante went deep in the bottom of the second inning on Sunday. It was the Marlins' fourth home game of the season. Is it so crazy for a team to go three home games in a row without a dinger? Last year, the Marlins went four home games in a row without a dinger in April. Three games in June, twice. Three games in August. It's unusual, but not extraordinarily so.
It didn't help that Marlins Park had knocked down some promising flies. A bigger issue, though, is that Marlins Park opened with one game on Wednesday, April 4. Then the team went on the road until the following Friday. So people grew impatient. Even though the Marlins hadn't been playing much at home, the days without a dinger were piling up. People wanted to see the sculpture activated for the first time. It was a highly anticipated event. People did not want to have to wait for it, and that weird one-game series season opener caused some psychological distress.
At last, Infante took J.A. Happ out to left. It wasn't a particularly impressive home run - it was far less impressive than the second home run the Marlins would hit Sunday - but it was enough of a home run to get the job done. By which I mean:
Everything we expected. Except for one part. From what I assume was a trial run previous to the home opener:
You see those fireworks? Of course you see those fireworks, you're not blind. Those fireworks were present, once. They weren't present on Sunday. Between then and now somebody looked at this sculpture and thought, whoa, we need to tone this down, I think this is a little over the top.
When Infante's drive cleared the fence, the Marlins' primary play-by-play announcer half-said and half-shouted:
Light that thing up!
The Marlins' primary play-by-play guy had months to prepare for this moment. Hell, he had years. The home-run feature didn't just appear in center field out of nowhere Sunday morning. It took a long time to design and to build, and it was all over the news for much of the offseason. The Marlins' play-by-play guy had months to prepare for this moment, and the best word he could come up with was "thing". "Light that (something) up!" - there's nothing wrong with that. It does light up. But, "thing"? I'm not taking a shot at the Marlins' play-by-play guy. He got it as right as he could have. There's just no better word than "thing". That is a thing, if you're trying to be kind, and something else if you're not.
The Marlins' play-by-play guy also said this as Infante was rounding the bases:
It figures, Tommy, that it would be Omar Infante, who's off to such a great start - the first Marlins home run at Marlins Park.
What he seemed to be saying was that it figured that Omar Infante would deliver the first dinger, because Infante has been hot. Okay, but no. It never figured that Omar Infante would hit the first dinger. It figured that Giancarlo Stanton or Logan Morrison or Hanley Ramirez or Gaby Sanchez or even John Buck would hit the first dinger, because they are dinger hitters. Hot streak be damned, Infante came in with 55 career home runs. He's been in the Majors since 2002. His 162-game average is nine home runs.
But then, there's a history of weird guys hitting the first home home runs in new parks, as I guess you'd expect. Mark Loretta hit the first Padres home run in Petco, in Petco's sixth game. Russ Davis hit the first Mariners home run in Safeco. John Vander Wal hit the first Pirates home run in PNC, which was less weird but still came on a team with Brian Giles and Aramis Ramirez. Sometimes the home run comes from exactly who you'd expect. Sometimes it doesn't. Isn't it interesting how "profound" sounds like a deeply significant word, but "profundity" sounds almost like an insult?
On the Marlins' broadcast, incidentally, some sideline reporter was interviewing model Elsa Hosk in left field while Infante was batting. I guess Hosk has a clothing line or something, and now Marlins apparel is included. I don't care enough to research. Hosk's final words before the ball cleared the fence:
...all the Miami fans are so devoted, and, you know, it's awesome.
This was the scene after Infante returned to the dugout:
There's a man holding up a sign that reads "INFANTE". The sign was clearly not just made in the moment. There's a man with an Omar Infante sign. Hanley Ramirez hit a home run several innings later. Did the man have a Hanley Ramirez sign, or only an Omar Infante sign?
That is a man with many signs. Or, two signs, that coincidentally were the right signs on Sunday afternoon. I should note that a quick search of our editorial photo tool here yields the following result, from April 2010:
Evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it is the same fan. And not an usher. Although it's possible he is an usher, now. This is a man who sends very simple messages.
There's only one thing left for me to say. After Infante's home run, the Marlins broadcast showed the home-run sculpture for a total of 25 seconds. After Ramirez's home run in the bottom of the eighth, the Marlins broadcast showed the home-run sculpture for a total of seven seconds. All offseason, it was a thing. By the second home run, it was just another baseball quirk, like the Green Monster, or Tal's Hill. An 18-second drop in footage between the first and second dinger. Huge. The sculpture will always remain an item of interest - look in the screenshot above after Ramirez's homer, and observe all the fans pointing - but already it's lost a big chunk of what made it so outlandishly absurd. For months and months and months, we couldn't believe it was real. It's real, and now we've seen it work. Now our brains adapt to our new reality. Brain adaptation is an incredibly impressive, complicated process that results in having made the world a little less amazing.