The Miami Marlins may not be a franchise worthy of your admiration. Owner Jeffrey Loria may not a trusthworthy owner. But when we found out that Marlins Park had earned the bid for the 2017 All-Star Game, one thing was certain.
Major League Baseball had made the right decision. Marlins Park deserved the bid.
It would be so easy to point out that the Marlins had spent years questionably accruing funds while claiming poverty in order to build a primarily publicly-funded stadium and provide the Fish all of the profits. It is simple to say that the Marlins have been lingering between mediocrity at best and bottom-feeder at worst throughout the last 12 years since that last World Series. It is easy to point out that the ownership group that took over in 2002 has thoroughly dismantled two different Marlins teams and has overseen the demise of two different eras of Marlins baseball (three if you count the lone 2012 season).
Those things have little to do with hosting All-Star Games.
The All-Star Game is a midseason festivity, and the primary role of the venue of the game is whether it provides a nice backdrop for the impressive feats that might happen on the field. The game has its problems, but it is still regarded as a venerable event and something that the players and fans (at least live in attendance) enjoy. Every year, players will make the trek to the designated city and honor their team and league and play on the field. Similarly, guys will be selected to compete in the Home Run Derby, and that will happen like clockwork. And the fans will come out, like clockwork, despite the fact that the game determines home-field advantage even though no fan wants that rule to exist. It's the All-Star Game, it is a guaranteed hot ticket and full house.
All of the insults that are thrown the Marlins' way about low attendance and a lack of engaged fans are within reason. None of those insults have anything to do with hosting an All-Star Game. The guaranteed draw of the game eliminates the most embarrassing thing about baseball fandom in Miami. There is no chance Marlins Park will be riddled with empty blue seats and sleeping fans on national television.
If you have some issue about how this park was publicly-funded, you can take it up with the numerous other recent stadiums that were graciously provided by local government. The game will be at the Great American Ballpark in 2015, a stadium that was paid for in part by Hamilton County via a sales tax increase. Petco Park, the site of next year's game, was a public renovation project in San Diego that is partly owned by the Padres. Target Field in Minnesota, the site of last year's game, is entirely owned by the Twins, but Hennepin County agreed to pay for two-thirds of the stadium's costs. The Mets paid for only $420 million of the $610 million initial cost to Citi Field.
The examples span on and on. Publicly-funded stadiums are the norm in baseball as well as in other sports. Marlins Park is no different, and hosting an All-Star Game there is no less sanctimonious and insulting to fans and members of the Miami-Dade community than hosting in any of the above stadiums.
What does that leave for the All-Star Game at Marlins Park? A truly beautiful, modern-looking venue that is distinctly different from the retro designs of recent years. Marlins Park is unlike any other stadium in the game, and it has not been in the limelight since Opening Night in 2012. The cozy atmosphere of a smaller-attendance park is excellent, even for a big event like the All-Star Game, and the backdrop of downtown Miami and Little Havana will be in full view. Visiting fans will get to enjoy the culture of south Florida in all of its decadence, especially as it is reflected in bits and pieces of the stadium. Weather, even in mid-July, will be of no concern either, whether it is rain or damning heat, as Marlins Park is well air-conditioned and has the retractable roof.
The stadium is a perfect place to host the All-Star festivities. Look no further than the large center field sculpture we Marlins fans lovingly call The Monstrosity! Can you imagine the Home Run Derby in Marlins Park? Every shot going deep into the cavernous recesses of the stadium's dimensions, making them look more majestic. The home run sculpture going off with every long ball! Fans dashing around the promenade and darting in and out of the Budweiser Bowtie Bar to catch dingers and drinks? Can you imagine the atmosphere if and when Giancarlo Stanton climbs aboard to compete?
Marlins Park offers cultural variety, various distractions beyond baseball (see Clevelander, The), and a good-looking venue to host the midsummer classic. The Marlins are going to be extremely happy to get their hands on the revenue from the All-Star Game, but in terms of finding a stadium that could do a great job hosting, you could not ask for a better park.
Mark your calendars, Marlins fans. I'll be there. Will you?