A few months ago, as the Marlins unveiled their plans for the ins and outs of the new stadium, the one aspect the took the public by storm involved a monument in center field. The word monument though doesn’t really do this thing justice. It’s large; it’s multi-hued; and it’s going to move whenever a Marlin hits a home run.
Now baseball is a sport firmly rooted in tradition. The boldest moves in recent years have concerned various iterations of home uniforms with different color combinations for different days of the week and — gasp — some sleeveless uniform tops. Baseball fans like their ball players gritty, their history hallowed and their records respected.
Throughout baseball history, those who dare to rock the boat risk alienation. Bill Veeck remains the most famous man to push the baseball boundaries. His Disco Demolition stunt backfired, but he granted Minnie Minoso at bats in five decades and introduced the world to Eddie Gaedel. He was a showman who wanted to entertain the masses, but after testifying on behalf of Curt Flood, baseball passed him by. As MLB has worked to keep Mark Cuban on the outside, there never has been an owner willing to take as many risks as Veeck.
In a few weeks, when the Yankees journey to Miami to close out Spring Training, the Marlins’ new ballpark will open. Like many other new stadiums, this one has a painfully tortured funding history. The city of Miami has ponied up far too many dollars to build a new stadium in an area of the city that is even further from a potential fan base than the Dolphins’ stadium is. Even with Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes in tow, drawing fans to Miami to see the team will be a challenge.
And so enter the Miami Marlins and their outfield monument to, well, something. A flying fish perhaps? Maybe it’s something baseball needs. Now I’m not saying each stadium needs something that looks like that, but maybe a little levity in the game can’t hurt. A look around Yankee Stadium reveals an attempt at recreating something Serious. These are Hallowed Grounds with a lot of History. We must respect the memories, and do not besmirch the team or else George Steinbrenner, forever staring out from the right field bleachers, will get you. There will be no flying fish here.
Ultimately though, baseball is a game, a sport. It’s about the spectacle, and the entertainment. The Marlins’ monument can rock the boat as much as it wants, and when the Yankees take on the Miami ballclub with the bright orange uniforms in a new stadium at the end of Spring Training, I’ll be rooting for a home run. Who doesn’t want to see flying fish light up with every four-bagger anyway?