Sunshine State Baseball Part II: Miami Marlins

A look at Marlins Park from our seats in left field

A look at Marlins Park from our seats in right field

To say I was skeptical of our visit to Miami is probably a gross understatement. After all, Miami was home to the Marlins, a team best known for somehow managing to win two World Series titles during their 20 year history, only to blow up the championship teams, spending most of their existence woefully behind their NL East opponents. Adding to the skepticism was the Marlins 2012 rebranding and move to Marlins Park–an actual baseball field–as opposed to their previous home of Pro Player Stadium, Joe Robbie Stadium, Dolphins Park, or whatever the name du jour was for that particular year.

Marlins Park is the source of quite a bit of controversy, and for good reason. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria wanted to keep his team in South Florida and pledged to move the team into Miami proper. Some doubted that baseball could actually flourish and after nearly 20 years of sparsely attended games, no one would blame the Marlins for heading west to Las Vegas or north to Charlotte, North Carolina. Instead–much to the chagrin of Miami taxpayers–Loria got his wish and a big taxpayer funded stadium was built on the site of the old Orange Bowl in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana district.

Continue reading

Sunshine State Baseball Part I: Daytona Cubs

Rain spoils our visit to Daytona

Rain spoils our visit to Daytona

For as long as anyone can remember, Florida has been a hotbed for baseball. When spring training first started, Florida was the place to be, with it’s fantastic late-winters and early springs. It’s a state that is home to fifteen MLB teams during spring training, two MLB teams, and a litany of minor league teams. To say that Florida is a great place to see baseball is an understatement (unless you’re frying at a Minor League game in July or August). During our short jaunt through the east part of the state, we visited two MiLB parks (one game was rained out) and paid a visit to Jeffrey Loria’s gaudy palace in Miami. Each of our three stops will have a dedicated blog post, and if you want to see additional pictures from the trip, please check out our Facebook page! Continue reading

Batter up: 2014

Look out, Marlins, we're coming!

Look out, Marlins, we’re coming!

Baseball season is well underway, and after a silent 2013 that unfortunately featured no visits to new ballparks, RFTHT is back in 2014 and we’re excited to be visiting the Daytona Cubs and Miami Marlins in early May. Aside from both being in Florida, there couldn’t be fewer similarities between the two teams and their parks. Like the Chicago Cubs, Daytona plays in a ballpark that hits the century mark this year. Renamed Jackie Robinson Ballpark, the Cubs’ home is quite significant, as it is home to the first place Jackie Robinson played an MLB game (spring training 1946).

The Marlins meanwhile, play in owner Jeffrey Loria’s gaudy palace to South Florida overindulgence. Whether it’s the sculpture beyond the center field wall that looks like something out of a 1980s-Miami acid trip, the nightclub, or the fish tanks behind home plate, Loria spared no expense with his new stadium when it opened in 2012. We’re all quite excited to see this ode to gluttony that houses the Florida Miami Marlins.

If you’re interested in following our adventures in real time, check us out on Facebook or Twitter. Also, I’ll try to post a picture or two on Instagram, so feel free to follow us on any of those three formats.

 

Stay tuned for updates!

Henry Aaron remains the king

hank-aaron

An unsuspecting man from Mobile, Alabama, with a quiet demeanor, and one hell of a quick swing broke Babe Ruth’s vaunted home run record on this date 40 years ago. April 8, 1974 is a date forever etched into the minds of baseball fans, whether they were alive or not. I wasn’t around when Hank smashed a 2-run home run off the Dodgers’ Al Downing in the fourth inning, but I’ll never be able to shake the image. It’s a glorious moment for baseball, and a man we all strive to be. Unlike more recent home run hitters, Aaron was a man–and still is–a man of few words, who played the game right, and despite the endless hate mail and death threats, Aaron persevered, never throwing it in the faces of his detractors.

As I write this blog post, I’m looking at the box score from April 8, 1974, when the Braves defeated the Dodgers 7-4 in the fourth game of the season. On the surface, it appears to be any other game as the Braves managed 7 runs on just 4 hits, but walked 7 times. Aaron’s only hit of the night was the dinger in the 4th; he went 1-3 for the night and also managed a walk. Braves’ pitcher Ron Reed pitched 6 innings, giving up all 7 of the Dodgers’ hits and all 4 runs, and managed to pick up his first win on the young season.

On the surface it appeared to be any other game.

Except time stood still in the bottom of the 4th as Aaron stepped to the plate and mashed one of the left field wall. The sold out crowd at Fulton County Stadium went bananas, and two young fans joined Aaron as he trotted around the bases. For a moment, time stood still and the entire country watched as Henry Aaron took his place in history.

It’s funny, I can’t remember seeing the moment admitted steroid-user Mark McGwire hit number 62, breaking Roger Maris’s single season record, nor do I care to remember Barry Bonds’ home run that broke Aaron’s record, but even though I wasn’t alive, I will always remember the image of Aaron hitting that home run. Unlike Bonds, who stuck his arms in the air, admired the shot, and trotted around the bases patting himself on the back, Aaron did what you should: he tucked his head, rounded the bases, and scored. He didn’t seem to mind or notice the two kids running with him, or the throngs of people waiting for him at home plate. To Henry Louis Aaron, it was a home run that tied the game, 3-3.

He was thankful the chase was over and has always seemed so humble about the record. Unlike certain characters, Aaron never martyred himself and he kept playing the game. Today, the Braves honor the true home run king, and unlike San Francisco that quickly stripped itself of anything Barry Bonds, the Braves celebrate Hank Aaron today and everyday.

Hank is a man who always put his team before himself, did his job without question, and played some of the best baseball anyone’s seen. Aaron is a 25 time All-Star, won the 1957 World Series, was the NL MVP that same year, won 3 Gold Gloves, 2 batting titles, was the NL home run champion 4 times, and holds the record for most RBIs, total bases, extra base hits, and yes, home runs.

Even if you despise the Atlanta Braves, today, we can all root for baseball’s true home run king, Henry Louis Aaron.

 

Cheers to 40 years, Hank.

Atlanta’s Reed promises enormous middle-class development at… | www.ajc.com

Mayor Reed just finished a lengthy press conference regarding yesterday’s announcement that the Braves are leaving downtown Atlanta after 50 years to a new home in Cobb County.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the story.

Atlanta’s Reed promises enormous middle-class development at… | www.ajc.com.

 

Additional thoughts on the Braves’ move

Just 3 short seasons left to enjoy the Ted

Just 3 short seasons left to enjoy the Ted

Throughout the day, I’ve stopped what I was doing to scroll through my Twitter feed, listen to Atlanta sports talk radio, and read through the endless number of news stories regarding the Braves’ stunning announcement that they are leaving the city of Atlanta and Turner Field for Cobb County. After nearly 9 hours, I believe I’ve started to process the decision and provide a few rational thoughts before my day comes to an end.

First of all, I’m not particularly thrilled with the Braves moving to the suburbs. While it brings the Braves closer to the fans that attend games on a regular basis, it puts them in the middle of endless sprawl with nothing aesthetically pleasing about the surrounding area. Sure, the Braves are promising a massive multi-use complex, which was completely lacking at Turner Field, but the new park won’t have the gorgeous Atlanta skyline in the background (a driving factor behind Turner Field’s lack of outfield lights), nor will they be anywhere close to downtown. The team points to Colorado, San Francisco, and Cincinnati as key examples of what they want for the new stadium and other developments. What those parks have in common that the new Braves’ park does not: they’re in the cities. Continue reading

Braves stun with plans to move to Cobb County

Braves are trading the Atlanta skyline for the far more interesting Big Chicken

Braves are trading the Atlanta skyline for the far more interesting Big Chicken

Schmarietta Daily-Journal

By Ryan Hill

The Atlanta Braves stunned Fulton County this morning with an announcement that the team has secured 60 acres of land in Cobb County for the construction of a new ballpark, following an apparent breakdown in negotiations with the City of Atlanta regarding use of the 17-year old Turner Field.

While several reasons were given for the move, one of the strongest concerns was the amount of traffic generated by games in the current area near the Mechanicsville neighborhood of Atlanta. “Today, most of our fans arrive via car, and getting to this (new) site via car from all sorts of different directions is easier,” explained Braves executive Derek Schiller.

Franchise President John Schuerholz elaborated, claiming “unless the City of Atlanta devises some kind of smarter way of moving people without the use of cars, we’re going to stick with reality and go where there is very little traffic […] and that place is the intersection of I-75 and I-285.”

The announcement has been responded to enthusiastically by Cobb County public officials and residents. The project is planned to be more than just a ballpark, including a large mixed-use development that promises year-round entertainment.

Comments from our readers have already flooded the original article this morning, requesting additional amenities such as a “border wall” built along I-285. Only time will tell if the Braves organization and Cobb County establish avenues for public input from citizens, though it has been demanded that only citizens with photo ID gain access to these still not-yet-announced “town halls” that are anticipated to happen over the next three years.

The new park will sit closer to this Georgia landmark than where Hank Aaron hit his record breaking 715th home run

The new park will sit closer to this Georgia landmark than where Hank Aaron hit his record breaking 715th home run

Even then, the county is sure to face challenges financing the new ballpark, which is projected to cost $672 million and built “in partnership with Cobb County,” according to the press release. It’s not known how much of this is expected to come from the public, but the announcement comes at a time when taxpayers everywhere are faced with “take it or leave it” negotiations from professional team ownerships across the country. Not exactly fond of tax increases of any kind, Cobb County remains the regional seat of the Tea Party movement.

But Tea Party leader and Marietta-resident Bob E. Lee is convinced that solutions can be found by “thinking outside the box” and “deporting all them illegals [sic] living off the teat of the American taxpayer first.” He also suggested that funding could come from firing half of all public school teachers, especially the ones found to be “communists,” an idea that has found support in most areas of the county during recent recession years.

We found this artists' rendering of what a car-less transportation system of the future might look like.

We found this artists’ rendering of what a car-less transportation system of the future might look like.

Public officials have indeed shown creativity with regard to budgetary challenges in the past. Several years ago, the Cobb County School Board suggested replacing facilities maintenance workers for the school system with prison laborers. It’s possible this idea could be extended to ballpark ushers, concession vendors, and ticket takers, substantially cutting operation costs once the ballpark is constructed.

We asked local public policy expert and Newt Gingrich Chair of Political Science at Kennesaw State University, Jefferson D. Brumby, what this meant for the area. “It’s just a win-win all around,” he began, “we get to bring our proud Southern traditions, like the ‘Tomahawk Chop,’ to those who have embraced it the most in Cobb County.” He continued, explaining that there was an ideal proximity to Atlanta and its history of the Civil Rights movement, “but not to any [African-American] neighborhoods.”

Dr. Brumby also proposed incorporating some of Cobb County’s history and culture into the new ballpark, suggesting a “Mary Phagan Memorial Pavilion” with a view of the famous “Big Chicken,” which sits a few miles away, in lieu of any actual skyline. Home runs could be referred to as “white flights,” he suggested, recalling the final stage of the campaign of “massive resistance” homeowners waged against “Big Government” in the 1960s and 1970s, diverting private investment northward to Cobb County and promoting growth in the area.

Braves owner Liberty Media is on board with the project, according to Schuerholz. “We’ve shared all of the details with them […] down to the various smallest of details,” Schuerholz said. “Their initial response was, ‘Wait, we own a baseball team?’ But we’ve talked further and believe we have a green light for the plan.”

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm was not shared by fans inside the I-285 perimeter. At Manuel’s Tavern, a bar in the North-Highlands neighborhood of Atlanta, we spoke to longtime bartender Bobby Agee. “To hell with the Braves,” he said after hearing the news, explaining that “this was the worst thing to happen to the team since the end of the 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 [seasons],” continuing to mumble as he walked back to the kitchen.

Ryan Hill has been a Braves fan longer than he can remember and spent more days as a Cobb County resident than he’d like to remember, while attending Kennesaw State University.

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