Pro Player Stadium
Major League Baseball Park #19 out of 39
Tuesday, August 18, 1998
San Diego Padres 7, Florida 5
W– Randy Myers
L – Matt Mantei
Attendance – 23,275
Wednesday, August 19, 1998
Florida 6, San Diego Padres 0
W– Brian Meadows
L – Sterling Hitchcock
Attendance – unknown
Thursday, August 20, 1998
Los Angeles Dodgers 2, Florida 1 (10)
W– Scott Radinsky
L – Justin Speier
Attendance – 27,664
Pro Player Stadium opened in 1987 and was exclusively a football venue during
its first six years. The stadium was renovated in 1990 and the teal-and-black
Marlins played their games in a building with orange and blue seats (the colors
of the NFL Miami Dolphins). The original name of the place was "Joe Robbie
Stadium" (named after the former Dolphins owner) and the name was changed in
1996. In January of this year, the name was changed again to "Dolphins Stadium"
and there's talk about the possible addition of a roof. There have also been
discussions between the Marlins and the local government to get the baseball
team their own stadium, but nothing official yet.
Personally, I don't think this park needs a roof. I'm also not sure how I feel about a new stadium. The Marlins only draw when the team is winning and after they won the 1997 World Series, then-owner Wayne Huizenga -- faced with a mountain of debt because fans didn't start showing up in large numbers until sometime in August -- blew up the team and traded most of their good players away. They shocked baseball by winning the 2003 World Series as a wild-card team and it appears a loyal, dedicated fan base is starting to develop.
In its baseball configuration, the stadium has a huge hand-operated out-of-town scoreboard above most of the left-field wall. The second-deck seats in the outfield are covered with a tarp. That reminded me of baseball games in the Kingdome before the Mariners finally started winning in 1995. Other than the scoreboard and the tarps, there's really nothing else noteworthy about the building. It hasn't been around that long. It's a multi-purpose stadium and the color scheme favors the franchise with the more storied history.
Sometime during the summer of 1997, one of us entered an online contest to win
tickets for two to the 1997 World Series. By September, I had left the temp job and the
e-mail address I used there was closed. On top of that, we had moved soon
afterward. I had forgotten all about the contest until we received an envelope
from a marketing company based in Oregon and a letter that explained I had won
the contest, but they were unable to reach me at work or our previous address.
So by the time they found us, it was the day of Game Six between the Indians and
Marlins. If I still had a choice, I would've picked Florida as the place to go
because it was warmer in October -- and I hadn't been to Pro Player Stadium yet.
My consolation prize was $500 cash and two round-trip tickets anywhere in the mainland United States. Well, we knew we wanted to go to Florida someday because we wanted to get some value out of these tickets by flying as far away from Seattle as we could. Also, Florida had DisneyWorld, Cape Canaveral, Key West, the Everglades, frequent thunderstorms, etc.
When we got married in August of 1998, we decided to honeymoon in Florida (see tourist list above). A couple of my wife's relatives gave us two weeks' worth of accommodations (a week in Fort Lauderdale and a week in Orlando) and that definitely helped with the expenses. We also decided to use the ticket voucher for a trip to Florida, so that cost was covered.
So there was a redeye flight to Orlando followed by a long drive to Fort Lauderdale and a few days later, we drove into the parking lot of Pro Player Stadium. It was the first parking lot we'd seen with alternating sections of grass and asphalt. The grass was for the cars and the asphalt was for the people. This plan became even clearer when a rainstorm moved through the area and wiped out batting practice.
By mid-August of 1998, the Marlins and their fans were deep in fire-sale denial. Four months into a season as defending World Series champs and the team was offering a "four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas for $40" deal and they still managed to attract 23,000 fans to a game during the summer. I don't think the weather had much to do with all those new fans staying away. The Marlins had so little history that one featured bit of trivia between innings of our first game was that third-baseman Kevin Orie was the seventh Marlin to wear #27. I guess that was another thing that reminded me of the old Kingdome days.
One person that helped make the game interesting was the organist. When Padres pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney stepped up to the plate, part of the chorus of "Swanee River" echoed from the empty seats. Padres outfielder Lyle Mouton (defensive replacement) heard "Climb Every Mountain" as he stepped in against Matt Mantei. It was "Killing Me Softly" for Quilvio Veras, "Leave It To Beaver" for Wally Joyner, and the "Addams Family" theme for Chris Gomez. For a big music-trivia geek such as myself, it was very cool.
I'll have some baseball and non-baseball pictures up fairly soon, I hope. The trip was a lot of fun. We've made three trips to Florida since 1998, but we haven't ventured outside the Orlando area since the first trip.
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