As many of you know, I spent my Spring Break in the world of sunshine and sunburns (sunscreen failure) called South Florida. I got to spend alot of time chillaxing during my break at the beach, seeing family, and doing other fun things.
The highlight of my trip was going to the Marlins-Nationals baseball game on Wednesday April 16th at Marlins Park. Let me just say this:
It was one of the best baseball experiences I have had in my whole life!
It was great seeing the Nats on the road for the first time (other than up the road in Baltimore) and going to a game with my cousins. Dan Saucier in the Marlins ticket office helped us get some of the best seats in Marlins Park. You can see our view from our seats in the picture at the top. We sat in Section 11 in the lower level behind home plate, just a little bit down the first base line. The first base side is the visitors side at Marlins Park, and we saw A LOT of Nationals fans at the game.
We were lucky enough to get passes to watch batting practice from the field, thanks to Dan and Alex and Joe from the Marlins media team.
Since we had batting practice passes, we needed to get to Marlins Park REALLY early. We soon realized that we got to the park around the same time as the players! Just as we approached the stadium, a custom white GT with the license plate “JDF16,” appeared out of the blue skyline of Little Havana. It was Jose Fernandez, 2013 NL Rookie of the Year and the Marlins starting pitcher that day! Who else would have a Marlins license plate JDF16? I was so surprised to see him that I was reluctant to wave to him, but when Dad finally did, I did too, and he waved back at us. How cool is that? He pulled into the players parking lot, which is very close to the 3rd base parking garage where we parked.
We pulled into the 3rd Base Garage on 12th Street, and passing by the letters from the old Orange Bowl.
We went to the media gate so we could get our field credentials. Soon after we were on the field, we saw some familiar people from back home in DC, like Bob Carpenter, F.P. Santangelo, Dan Kolko, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler walk out of the dugout area. Dave Jageler came over to say hi and we talked for a while about Jose Fernandez (who was pitching that night and had never lost a game a Marlins Park) and Zach Walters (who once broke up a Fernandez no-hitter and who just got his first career home run the night before). F.P. came over and talked for a while too before he had to get ready for the game.
When we entered the field, I saw thousands of empty seats and Adeiny Hechavarria taking BP. It was awesome to see him. It got even better later that group, when Giancarlo Stanton started taking his swings. He can really hit a long ball! When Stanton was done taking his swings, he talked to Marlins owner Jeffery Loria and then he signed some autographs. I got an autograph on the sweet spot of a ball!
I also took a few pics of the fishies in the tank behind home plate. There were a lot of fish and a lot of coral in the tanks. It was really cool to see up close.
The Marlins soon left the field and most of the fans crowded around the Miami dugout for autographs of the Marlins players. I stayed near home plate, though, to yell and say hi to the Nats guys. I watched Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon take BP and hit the fish statue and hit into section 34, which is exactly 502 feet from home plate. Jayson Werth hit one to deep center as well. I called out to Desi while he was in the dugout, and he said “How are you doing, Matt?” and I replied “Good!” It was nice saying hi to Ian, and the other fans were stunned that he replied back. A couple of the Nats players interacted the with me and the other fans, like Danny Espinosa and Jayson Werth.
When Kevin Frandsen was in the cage, he hit a ball that somehow came screaming towards us. It nailed my younger brother in the leg. Everyone thought he would be injured, but he was totally fine. Kevin finished his turn up to the plate, and he came over apologized to my brother with a fist bump. How nice is that? I also spotted Frandsen check on his leg after his next turn at the plate just to be sure. Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu came over with a couple of balls for us as a gift. (We got a bunch of balls on the field that night, and we even game away some to people who didn’t get any). I got one autographed by Adam LaRoche, because he is one of the few Nationals players I have never gotten a signature from. (From the usual starters, I think Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span are the only other ones).
One of the highlights of the night was doing a short interview with Zach Walters.
I asked him how it felt to hit his first home run at Marlins Park the night before. “It was a great experience. I wish it didn’t come with a loss, but it is definitely something I will remember forever,” he said. I asked him why he thought he always gets big hits in Marlins Park, and he said, “there’s so much green. I think it makes it easier to see the ball here.” He said that facing Fernandez again after he broke up his no-hitter last time, he just “wanted to put the ball in play again.” And he did! He put it in play and over the left field wall for a home run later in the game!
I then talked to Gio Gonzalez a little bit and told him I would help him raise attendance for his comedy night.
I also got a quick picture with Anthony Rendon and his very special hat.
Pretty soon, though, the game was starting and we found our seats. We were all able to change into Nats jerseys for the game, since you aren’t allowed to wear opposing team gear on the field.
We got free hot dogs as the promo “Kids Eat Free Wednesday Nights!” My dad got a Cuban sandwich.
The game started and Jose Fernandez and Tanner Roark were in a DUEL. Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich broke up that duel with a ginormous homer into right field that set off the fish statue into motion. My opinion is that the statue is even uglier in person moving then it is on ESPN or MLB Network. Even though they were up by 3, the Marlins would not keep the lead for long.
In the 6th inning, Jayson Werth took Jose Fernandez deep! Mike Redmond actually challenged the home run because it appeared to hit the railing in right. Redmond probably had a bad angle. It was ruled a home run, and it put the Nats on the board for 3.
Zach Walters led off the 8th, and new pitcher Mike Dunn “let it go” (get it….?) as he threw a pitch that Zach Walters hit onto the left field concourse. Two home runs in two nights for Mr. Walters, who sees the ball really well at Marlins Park!
Ian Desmond hit a 2 run single, which was the insurance the Nats needed. Rafael Soriano closed it up in the ninth to take the rubber game. The Nats won 6-3.
I had so much fun at the game. Marlins Park is really a great place to watch a game! There are lots of things to see there before or after the game. The Bobblehead Museum is cool and you can type in the names of players you are looking for to find their bobblehead, if there is one.
I really want to thank everyone from the Marlins for arranging such a great experience for me. If you ever have a chance to go to Miami, you should try to go watch a game at Marlins Park. It is a different experience than watching a game anywhere else I have been, especially when the roof is closed. There so many colors around the stadium. It is not a traditional ballpark, but that is kind of why you should see a different atmosphere.On Twitter, follow @Marlins (who followed me back), @MarlinsPark, @DSauceSports, and @ABuznego for great Marlins information.
I also want to thank Dave Jageler and F.P. Santangelo for always encouraging me. I also want to thank some of the players who interact with their fans, like Giancarlo Stanton, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, Adam LaRoche, Kevin Frandsen and Gio Gonzalez. It makes seeing them very special.
I will be traveling with my family this summer and seeing baseball on the road at a few more ballparks this summer. I can’t imagine that anything will come close to this experience. But keep reading Matt’s Bats for more!
Sounds like a great trip and that you are joining the life of a stadium chaser…. Hope to see you guys over the summer.