Pro baseball's Miami Marlins tops chart with stadium opener

Apr 3, 2012 3:00 AM

The Miami Marlins will top the charts this Wednesday with the Grand Opening of their new domed stadium in Little Havana.

A packed crowd of local, national and athletic superstars will have their first look at the 37,000 seat stadium with its aquarium behind home plate, the city skyline in the distance, a peculiar sculpture in center field and, oh, major league baseball.

Two good teams will square off, as the World Champ Cardinals sans Albert Pujols provide the opposition. The game will occupy prime time on the world-wide leader of sports.

Certainly it’s the biggest splash since the Heat championship parade down Biscayne Boulevard and reminiscent of the Florida Marlins World Series celebrations before that. The new ballpark paid for by the tax payers for no apparent reason is the talk of the town (for now).

Meanwhile lost in the shuffle, the Florida Panthers under the direction of Dale Tallon and Kevin Dineen made the NHL playoffs for the first time in 10 years. The interesting point being that it’s something the Murray Brothers, Mike Keenan, Jacques Martin and five others couldn’t get close to accomplishing. Fans have to look back to Doug MacLean to relish in any success for the franchise.

The Heat push on, playing like champs one night and chumps the next…all the while awaiting the start of the playoffs and a chance to prove the loss to Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks last year was a fluke.

The print media continues to report the entries and results of the horse racing at Calder and Gulfstream with occasional stories about the stakes races and contenders. Of note, the recent Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old in training sales went better than expected. Has a Derby winner been sold at a bargain price?

Nary a word about horses, dogs or jai alai graces the radio or TV airwaves – unless there is a scandal.

Genting Group announced a downsizing change in scale for their proposed casino in downtown Miami. They’ll propose a smaller footprint and venue for the former Miami Herald site. This subject will be headlines during the summer and into next year’s Legislative session.

The media continues to over cover the Miami Dolphins for whatever reason. The area remains a "football" town and even the mediocre franchise that is a shadow of its former self continues to eat up almost all the column inches and minutes on local talk radio.

With four Anglo sports talk stations in the market (not counting one ESPN affiliate in Palm Beach) the saturation of football babble is deafening. Occasionally a host or caller will accidentally mention hockey, basketball or even the University of Miami’s highly ranked baseball team.

The Hurricanes have a history of nurturing major leaguers (Ryan Braun the latest), but are drowned out by listeners apoplectic over the upcoming draft, or demanding that Jeff Ireland be fired and Dan Marino brought in to run the team.

Meanwhile, without fanfare, less trumpeted but extraordinary sporting activities in the area attract far more fans than all of the above mentioned "organized" games. Driving over the bridge to Key Biscayne the vibrant Miami skyline dwarfs hundreds of sailboats and pleasure craft in the sun drenched bay.

Now that Tiger and Lefty have moved on to the majors, duffers line up to pay top greens fees to play public and private courses from the Blue Monster of Doral to PGA National. Weekday tournaments attract full fields across the State with charity events headed by network stars drawing international golf players.

Similarly, with Maria Sharapova and Rafa Nadal headed to Europe, the tennis courts are filled with day and evening players, young and old. The Key Biscayne Sony Ericsson facility houses camps for up and coming tennis players, while public courts throughout the State are booked days and weeks in advance.

On weekends inland fishermen in their $35,000 bass boats and cane poll folks along the canals snatch five and six pound largemouth bass. Along marina row captains are unloading charters filled with pompano, blue fish, Spanish mackerel, mahi mahi, red grouper and an occasional blue marlin.

Cheeca Lodge will soon host its annual bone fish derby attracting fisherman, including the 41st President of the USA, to NFL superstars. It’s bass tournament time up at the lake (Okeechobee) which, finally, is deep enough to attract top anglers from around the world.

Similarly, the Everglades summer hunting season (hogs, pythons) is approaching rapidly with the days growing longer, the temperatures rising and the humidity up.

The dive boats along the reef from Miami to Little Palm in the keys are filled with enthusiasts checking on the coral and the newly placed ship wrecks in Key Largo and Looe Key.

The area beaches are jammed with tourists and locals alike with the ocean/bay temperature now nearing 85. Though South Florida has acquired all the flashy major league franchises in the past 30 years (most in the last 20), the competition for the leisure dollar continues to compete with the sun, sand and surf.

All great cities have great arts, sports and entertainment, but especially in South Florida. If the teams are winning the fans support them. If not, fetch the sun screen.

(article c/o Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson –Thompson/Hutchinson & Associates, Miami.