The Miami Marlins opened the 2012 season last night by hosting the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals in their brand-spankin'-new ballpark. I was very excited, not only because it was the first "real" game of the season, but because I was curious to see what the new ballpark looked like and curious to see the new-look Marlins with their new manager (Ozzie Guillen) and new shortstop (former batting champ and Met José Reyes). Well, I must say, it was quite a spectacle.
First, when the starting lineups were announced, each Marlins player was escorted onto the field by a Brazilian dancer, complete with feathers and samba music. I found this a little odd, since baseball is known as a "conservative" sport and not usually associated with partying, dancing, or "carnaval." The ladies did not look comfortable walking onto the field in their high heels, and the players looked uncomfortable as well. I know Miami is a cultural melting pot, but the ladies just looked out of place.
Second, the National Anthem was sung by José Feliciano. I saw nothing wrong with that initially, because, again, Miami is a cultural melting pot and having a Puerto Rican sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" is acceptable (to most people). It was Feliciano's rendition of the song that made it just plain odd. He changed the melody so much that the song was unrecognizable. Now, I know the song is hard to sing and is not exactly a good representation of our country (with rockets red-glaring and "bombs bursting in air"), but those who sing it (especially at a big event such as this one) need to try and keep the song sounding remotely close to how it was supposed to be sung. I'm normally a fan of José, but I did not like his performance last night.
Thirdly, I had a major issue with the ceremonial first pitch. When you think of an Opening Day first pitch, especially at a new ballpark in Miami, you think maybe the President would be there, maybe someone representative of Miami like Dan Marino or Gloria Estefan, or maybe even a former player like Steve Carlton or Andre Dawson, both born in Miami . Heck, I wouldn't have even minded if Marco Rubio had shown up - at least people can associate him with Florida. But no; the Marlins had to schlep out Muhammad Ali, which I thought was inappropriate and insensitive. The man looked terrible - a far cry from the unforgettable moment in history when he lit the Olympic torch to open the 1996 games in Atlanta. His Parkinson's disease has taken over in a big way, and he should be left alone. The Marlins' owner handed him the baseball while they sat in their little cart, and José Reyes took the ball from him. So the ball was not thrown from the mound, it was not caught by a player, and it was just an awkward moment. And since when is Ali associated with Miami? Yes, Cassius Clay did beat Sonny Liston in a boxing match in Miami way back in 1964; but the poor man is in such rough shape now that I don't think he should be wheeled out in public like that. It was one of those moments when I was like "Huh?"
Oh, but after all that, they did play a baseball game, and it was a good one. The Cardinals won it 4-1, with Cards' starter Kyle Lohse throwing a no-hitter that was broken by José Reyes in the seventh inning. The Cardinals picked up right where they left off last year after winning the World Series - despite losing Albert Pujols, newly-acquired Carlos Beltrán, World Series MVP David Freese, and always-on Lance Berkman provided plenty of excitement for the Cards.
Here are some interesting "firsts" for the new ballpark, which seats 37,400 and has a retractable roof (they call it "retractable;" I think it's more like "slide-out" because it looks like it moves out on these tracks as opposed to retracting onto itself):
First hit: Carlos Beltrán
First double: Lance Berkman
First RBI: David Freese (2 in the first inning)
First 1,2,3 inning: bottom of the first
First strikeout: Josh Johnson struck out Daniel Descalso in the top of the fourth inning
First stolen base: Rafael Furcal
First walk: Josh Johnson walked Lance Berkman in the top of the fifth inning
First player hit by a pitch: Emilio Bonifacio by Kyle Lohse in the fourth inning
So the Opening Day games continue today, and you can bet I'll be watching at least 3 of them (the Nationals at the Chicago Cubs is at 2:00 today). Next week is the Nationals' home opener against the Cincinnati Reds, and my husband and I will be there. Until then, watch some baseball, and watch out for the Brazilian dancers!