At Baseball’s Season Opener

The start of baseball season is a day always filled with joy and hope – a triumph over winter and the promise of summer all with the crack of a bat.

It was better than ever this year as I got to go to the designated season opener at the new Marlin Park in Miami.

It’s a massive spaceship landed on Little Cuba on the spot where the Orange Bowl once stood. So Alex’s firm Snarkitecture got the public art commission to mark the connection and did so through a scattering of the familiar letters of the MIAMI ORANGE BOWL along the grounds outside the new stadium – some askew, others seemingly buried under the ground and barely emerging.

After months of working on the project he could see the effects on the public before him: posing with the letters, jumping on them, meeting friends, using them as the playful landmarks they were intended to be.

The letters hadn’t gotten the attention of the other public sculpture of the stadium – the most prominent a five story animated billboard by Red Grooms in which fish fly and colors spin every time the home team hits a homer (no such luck in the opening night loss, 4-1 to the Cardinals). Also, there is an aquarium along the home plate wall to further distract people.

Marlins Park in general is awash in color, sometimes garish in their jumble. The mascot Billy is an off-putting Marlin with a pointy nose, a teal outfit, accented by a rainbow. The home team was escorted to the team by carnival-dressed showgirls (in a move that may have been reserved only for the opener, we can hope).

It was a cool touch to have Jose Feliciano play the national anthem in much the disarming style he famously played one for the 1968 Worlds Series.

Going back even farther in time, it was Muhammad Ali who was enlisted to throw out the first ball. But hobbled by Parkinsons at 70, his hand shaking violently and looking about as bad as he has in public in recent years, it was all he could do to just clutch it for a moment.

Locals wanted Ali for his connection to the city early in his career, where he trained and lived before making history by defeating Sonny Liston in a famous bout there. But he was so ravaged, I’m not sure it was the best choice.

However the Marlins fared in the first game (hitless into the seventh), fans seemed to love the new park, its array of foods and even those scattered letters outside. I did too.

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