Wednesday night, the Miami Marlins lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. That isn't a particularly remarkable sentence - the Marlins have lost to the Cardinals a bunch of times, and they'll lose to the Cardinals a bunch more times in the future - but it was a remarkable game, in that it was the first game of the 2012 regular season to be played on US soil and broadcast at an acceptable US hour. It was the only regular-season game on a Wednesday otherwise dedicated to wrapping up spring training, and it was all shown on ESPN. Following is an assortment of quick thoughts on what we got to see as Marlins Park opened its doors.
To start off, this wasn't the first time that Marlins Park opened its doors. It was just the first time that Marlins Park opened its doors for a baseball event of any consequence. It was exactly as bright and lime-y as we were led to believe, and there was a lot of focus on the home-run sculpture in left-center field, but it occurred to me how quickly I've already become accustomed to the Marlins' look, and it occurred to me that, in time, we'll barely even notice that Marlins Park is insane. I mean, look at this. Before Wednesday's action, they gave the home-run sculpture a test run, just to make sure. A .gif:
Absolutely, utterly preposterous. It's like 100 feet tall. It splashes. It turns. It explodes. And yet this is so much less absolutely, utterly preposterous than it used to be. The input is exactly the same, but the way that we receive and process the input has changed, because this isn't new and exciting anymore. This is just that crazy thing we know about, and crazy ain't so crazy when you know about it. People who live near a smell get used to the smell. People who live near a view get used to the view. We're all going to get used to the Marlins. That thing right up there - you're going to get used to that. Even more used to it than you are already. The human brain is amazing.
Moving beyond the Marlins' sculpture and uniforms and general vibe, Wednesday got off to a very uncomfortable start. We knew ahead of time that a five-minute standing ovation was scheduled around the ceremonial first pitch. Speculation ran rampant regarding the identity of the VIP. Would it be the President? Would it be Dan Marino? Would it be Jeff Conine? The VIP was none of them, because the VIP was Muhammad Ali.
Ali's appearance required a scheduled five minutes because he had to be carted to the mound from center field. And, of course, he couldn't throw an actual pitch, on account of his advanced Parkinson's symptoms. This article makes it sound like the Ali appearance was moving:
The crowd gave Ali a standing ovation and chanted "Ali, Ali" as the cart made its way to the pitching mound to deliver the opening ball. As the cart made its way to the mound, Ali was able to lift his hand briefly and acknowledge the crowd's praise.
In truth, the crowd was eerily silent, starting a chant and then shortly stopping it. As Ali neared the infield, the PA announcer tried to get the chant going again, but it didn't last. You can't expect a sustained ovation for several minutes for just about anybody, but it just didn't feel right to me to see Ali paraded out in his condition, and it seems like many of the fans felt the same. That was not the touching moment that event planners might've thought they had mapped out.
Also before the game, we got up close and personal with Orel Hershiser in the broadcast booth:
That screengrab conveys something. It does not convey everything. I'd prepare a .gif if the MLB.tv archive of the game weren't blacked out. Hershiser was unusually animated, relative to a normal person talking. He was moving his head around a lot, and he was speaking into the camera as if he and the camera had agreed to a deal, and then the camera backed out at the last moment, and Hershiser wanted the camera to know that it can't just do that, because a verbal contract is a verbal contract.
I don't watch a whole lot of Orel Hershiser, and after tonight I can't help but wonder how my life would be different if I had watched a whole lot of Orel Hershiser in the past. I would probably be more skittish.
As for game action, Marlins Park is big. There's been speculation that Marlins Park will play as a pretty significant pitcher's park, and that's the way it looked Wednesday. Nobody homered, and nobody came all that close to homering, although there were batted balls that might've been home runs or near-home runs elsewhere. This might have been a calculated decision on the Marlins' part since I'm pretty sure the home-run sculpture causes area blackouts every time it's activated.
The Hanley-Ramirez-to-third-base experiment had itself a lazy debut:
You never want to read too much into one play, especially one in-between play involving a guy who is still getting used to a new position, but that probably wasn't the Hanley Ramirez the Marlins were hoping to show off. The Hanley Ramirez who batted .370 in spring training with adequate defense was probably the Hanley Ramirez the Marlins were hoping to show off. On the plus side, Ramirez and Jose Reyes didn't collide and concuss one another. If you think about it, this play could have been way worse.
Finally, one can't ignore that Kyle Lohse took a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh. I don't think anybody got too far ahead of themselves, because this was still Kyle Lohse, but Lohse came within nine outs, which is undeniably close. He came close enough to get people talking about Opening Day no-hitters, even though this wouldn't have been an Opening Day no-hitter. The Mariners and A's can't get noticed when they do things normally. The Mariners and A's can't get noticed when they do things abnormally. The Padres are big on camouflage uniforms, but none of their camouflage is as effective as whatever the Mariners and A's are wearing.
The first hit in Miami Marlins history? A single, by Jose Reyes. The first RBI in Miami Marlins history? A double, by John Buck. But the first baserunner in Miami Marlins history? Emilio Bonifacio, after Kyle Lohse hit him in the foot. I can still see Bonifacio hopping around, wincing in pain. The image is seared into my eyeballs. Wednesday night certainly saw the making of some unforgettable history.