I take great pride in being a lifelong Marlins fan. My first experience of intense fandom was the 1997 World Series. Sure, I wasn’t born until the following spring when the Florida Marlins were 15 games under .500 and 17 games back of first place in the NL East by mid-May, but that’s a mere technicality. My parents, who were pregnant with me at the time, sat way up the nosebleeds at Pro Player Stadium and soaked in the excitement of their franchise’s first World Series. I was born with a passion for baseball in my blood.
Having been so young when they celebrated their next title, my memories of 2003 are based solely on old, fuzzy highlight reels and hand-me-down recollections. I’ve gone the vast majority of my life never knowing the true joy that can emanate from your team’s late-game heroics that bring you one pitch closer to the thing that they’ve worked toward and we wish for. I’ve never had the privilege to feel the playoff buzz in the ballpark that reminds you that each microscopic adjustment made on the field is a work of art that can spur endless possibilities. Although the Marlins have scratched and clawed their way into October for the first time in 17 years, I still won’t get the opportunity to experience the very thing I’ve been waiting for. There will be no experiencing a ballpark buzz or roar from the crowd. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.
2020 has been the year of adversity and everyone has been impacted by one thing or another this year. The pandemic quickly proved how futile sports really are when the deadly virus infiltrated its way into locker rooms across the world. Then, the killings of Black Americans across the country reminded our society that systemic racism is alive and well at every moment, not just when the injustices are caught on camera. Players on every team attempted to take a stand for the things they believe in by using their platforms to spur change far beyond the baseball diamond. While sports can prove itself to be so unimportant during some crucial moments, they also have the power to generate connection, hope, and joy. These are things we need now more than ever.
Although this wasn’t the way any of us expected the Marlins to end their postseason drought, maybe that’s why they’ve made it this far. The Marlins are no stranger to struggle and sadness. Of course, the difficulties of a game are no comparison to those of marginalized communities who fear for their lives due to a lack of quality healthcare or hatred-fueled injustice. On a much smaller scale, however, and in relation to the challenges of this game, the Marlins have had their fair share of heartbreak and defeat. From massive fire sales that sent shockwaves of anger through the organization and its fan base that led to seemingly never ending losing seasons, to the tragic death of the franchise’s face who exuded a passion and love that was raw and real, to an outbreak that has induced concerns that are far more important than filling out a roster, the Marlins’ frustrations have been brewing for a very long time.
Even though this wasn’t how we envisioned the Marlins returning to the playoffs, nothing will take away from what the Marlins have accomplished this season. The desire and determination these “bottom feeders” have shown by showing up every day, sometimes twice a day, is remarkable. It’s what they Marlins have been doing for 17 years, really. We are used the struggles and sadness when other teams may not be. We’re able to overcome this adversity because this is what we’ve faced for so long. We’re now ready and able overcome the hurdles we’ve stumbled through in the past. If this season has taught us anything, I think it’s that we should never be satisfied. No one thought we’d finish the season, let alone capture a playoff spot. We aren’t satisfied with just breaking our playoff drought, though. The joy us Marlins fans feels right now is indescribable, but it doesn’t end here. We’ve come a long way these past 17 years, but this fight isn’t over just yet. We’ve still got a lot to prove.