MIAMI, FL: The home run sculpture in the outfield goes off after Omar Infante of the Miami Marlins hit 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)
Marlins Park has now hosted a fair amount of regular-season baseball. Has anybody hit the thing? Has anybody come close to hitting the thing?
Since the world first found out about Park's elaborate and gaudy home-run sculpture, people have been blinded, haunted, appalled. Since a few minutes after the world first found out about Marlins Park's elaborate and gaudy home-run sculpture, people have joked about somebody hitting a home run hard enough to blow the whole thing up. It was either that, or asking the Marlins and their visiting opponents to live a dingerless existence. There weren't many options for keeping the thing controlled, and no one could know what activation would mean for the people within the ballpark, and for the fate of the universe.
It was entirely plausible that a player would hit the sculpture with a home run. Maybe not hard enough to blow it up or even leave a dent, but the sculpture was placed within reach. A photo:
It would take some effort, but it was doable. The sculpture is just behind the wall to the left side of center. The Marlins are the only team with Giancarlo Stanton on it. Somebody, someday, would hit it. Maybe it would knock some pieces off, or maybe the whole instrument would jam. Maybe nothing would happen, except a Marlins Park first. But the Marlins knowingly put that sculpture in the splash zone.
I thought I'd see where the home runs have been hit so far. Has anybody hit the sculpture to date? If not, how close have they come? What you'll see embedded below are the three closest dingers. I don't want to spoil the surprise but the sculpture's still standing.
That green wall is back there. This home run by Hanley Ramirez was given a distance of 439 feet. It wasn't all that close to hitting the sculpture -- look at one of the outfielders for a sense of scale -- but it was close enough to make the sculpture sweat. I am operating under the assumption that the sculpture is alive and capable of perspiration. What this home run shows is that it isn't only possible for the sculpture to be hit; it's possible for the sculpture to be hit above the water/sand level. Somebody could drill a flamingo. If somebody were to drill a flamingo, and if the flamingo were damaged, I wonder how much effort would be put towards repairing it.
If you look at the screenshot, it appears that Stanton came mighty close to doing some damage. He did, but the ball actually bounced off that staircase. This, incidentally, was a walk-off grand slam. One of the most exciting, dramatic baseball events imaginable. Had Stanton blasted a walk-off grand slam off the sculpture, such that parts fell off and it shorted out and it rained sparks on the outfield, Stanton would've been responsible for the coolest event in baseball history. Instead, Stanton was merely responsible for a more run-of-the-mill cool event.
This happened on May 13. As Stanton approached home plate, the Marlins' color guy piped in by screaming "LIGHT THAT BABY UP!", referring to the sculpture. Victor Rojas has been using "Light that baby up" after Angels wins for a few years, referring to a glowing halo on a giant A outside the stadium. Are announcers allowed to just steal lines like this? Not that "Light that baby up" is the most creative thing in the world, but Rojas' call is fairly well-known. This is another way that the new Marlins make me uncomfortable.
At the end of the video clip, one of the announcers says the ball bounced off Jeff Conine's Stairway To Heaven. I capitalized it because it sounds like it's a thing. Jeff Conine is alive, and the stairway appears to lead to the Budweiser Balcony.
This is the closest a hitter has come, and it's hard to imagine a hitter coming closer without landing a blow. Buck hit a ball off the top of the green cylinder surrounding the sculpture, narrowly missing what the Marlins could refer to as a "Splash Hit" as long as they're stealing ideas from other teams. There's nothing particularly interesting about the section of faux water Buck just missed, but the first hit would be the first hit, and you never know what might cause the whole thing to break. It's possible that Red Grooms buried a self-destruct button within the moving parts, and also linked it to himself, so that if the sculpture were to die, Grooms would die, ascending to heaven alongside. This sculpture will be in heaven.
This home run happened two innings before Stanton's blast. After Stanton's, the announcer said "Light that baby up!" After this home run, the announcer says "Light that thing up!" There appears to be some confusion over how to refer to the sculpture. The current options, after more than a month of the park being open, are "baby" and "thing", where "baby" just rips off something said by another team's broadcast. People have had this long to come up with a name for the sculpture. On May 13, the Marlins' lead announcer called it "that thing".
More important than the Marlins' announcers is the fact that John Buck nearly hit the sculpture with a baseball on the fly. He didn't -- hitting the outer wall doesn't count -- but he came close enough to show that it is going to happen one of these days. The Marlins tested the fish tanks behind home plate to make sure they wouldn't break if they were hit by a baseball. I haven't read anything about the Marlins testing the home-run feature. I'm almost certain the feature would survive without a ding and the baseball would just bounce off, but there's just enough doubt that I cannot wait for the day.