Prior to my vacation to Miami last week, I was chatting with my buddy Matt, when he innocently asked me a simple question: “So, what do you guys have planned for the trip?”
Frankly, I had no idea. I mean, I knew we’d hit the beach, eat some good food, and sip on a bunch of overpriced drinks, since after all, that’s what dudes in their late ‘20’s do on vacation. Otherwise, there wasn’t anything special on the docket, except for a random trip to the new Marlins Stadium. At the time I wasn’t even certain we’d go, although I gave it stronger consideration when Matt described it as a place that “Looked like Disneyland for Adults.”
Well, Matt, you were pretty much correct my friend. Although if you’ll allow me to, I’d like to take that last sentence one step further.
Marlins Park isn’t just “Disneyland for Adults” but instead, a place I’d more accurately describe as “One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.” A place where baseball games are played and forgotten, drowned out by salsa music, dancing women and broken marriage vows. A place you go expecting to attend a sporting event, and instead end up at, just “an event.” A place that is truly indescribable with words from the English language.
Marlins Park is also a place that I can definitively say I had one of the five best days of my life.Now, if you’re surprised to read that, believe me, I’m just as surprised to type it. I didn’t go in with those expectations, but instead, my only goal was to hopefully have enough material to write about the stadium experience itself instead. I expected to tell you about the food and surrounding neighborhoods, and all those quirky little things that make every ballpark just a tiny bit different from every other one. I’ve done it on other trips before, and plan on doing it again at later times. That’s the great thing about baseball; every stadium is totally unique, something you can’t say about basketball arenas or football fields.
The problem is Marlins Park didn’t really lend itself to that kind of writing, if only because it’s not all that interesting of a facility. Sure you walk in and see some quirky colors, as well as a couple pieces of randomly overpriced art hanging on the walls that nobody truly cares about. But otherwise, the park itself is about as average as average can get. The most recognizable features are the lime green walls surrounding the field of play, a patch of AstroTurf that looks straight off the set of ‘Bad News Bears’ (which made me wonder if I’d woken up in 1971 or something) and that weird thing in center field that is part "monument," part "apparatus" and 100 percent "hideous." Even in my attempts to find a “team store” with a few friends, we looked and looked and looked, only to find one souvenir stand that was slightly bigger than the 50 other ones around the park. From an aesthetics standpoint, I really could take or leave Marlins Park, in the same way if you don’t like any shirts on a rack at Macy’s, you just move onto the next one.
I was also surprised that of every newer ballpark that I’ve been to, Marlins Park is basically the only one that seemed to have little interest in actually catering to families with children. Granted, I’m sure there was some “buy one hot dog, get one free” promo or something, but as far as making it a family friendly “environment,” well, it was kind of lacking. There was no sandpit for the kiddies like at Petco Park, and not even any of those goofy radar gun stations or batting cages like at basically every other park on the planet. Heck, even the mascot race had three of the most unidentifiable mascots you’ve ever seen in your entire life. If I had to take a guess, I think one might’ve been dressed as an amoeba, one as a dust particle, and the third as… you know what, maybe its best we just move on.
Yes, let’s indeed move on, because it’s time for me to get real with you here for a second: Marlins Park isn’t about the kids. It isn’t providing “something for everyone.” As I mentioned earlier, it’s not even about baseball. Nope, instead, Marlins Park is about getting consenting, legal adults into a baseball stadium and showing them the most kickass time they could ever imagine. Whether they watch a single inning of baseball or not.
Why is that? Well, in case you haven’t heard…
… (Hmm, how do I put this??)...
… Marlins Park has a dance club inside their stadium. A freakin’…DANCE CLUB!!!
And make no mistake, that’s exactly what it is. This place isn’t a “bar,” because honestly, every stadium in America has at least one “bar.” It definitely is a pub or lounge. Nope, this is a full-on, loud music, overpriced drinks, keep-your-wallet-in-your-front-pocket, dance club.
And my goodness was it fun.
Now before I go any further, I should admit that while I had a great time at the club, there were an incredibly lucky set of circumstances that brought us there. Without them, I don’t know if my experience would’ve been the same.
The first stroke of luck was that we met an awesome group of people from California earlier on our trip, and when we invited them to come to the game, they agreed in approximately .00000000000027 seconds. Had they not, the experience wouldn’t have been the same. You’re only as good as the company you keep, and fortunately for us, we had super fun company.
The second stroke of luck was that this group of friends just so happened to be staying at a hotel called “The Clevelander.” Now, that might not mean a ton to you, but it’s important to this story, since the club at Marlins Stadium is actually owned by The Clevelander (yes, the exact same hotel, dummy!). Granted, you don’t need to stay at The Clevelander hotel to get into the club, but it doesn’t hurt… especially when you’re hanging out in the lobby of the hotel waiting for a cab to the stadium, and some random guy walks up and offers you a bunch of tickets to sit in The Clevelander’s box, located directly next to the dance club.
Well, that’s exactly what happened to us, and as it turned out that “random guy” happened to be the General Manager of the hotel and he basically gave us his tickets for next to nothing. After all, that’s just what super-nice guys, who don’t want their tickets to go to waste do. By the way, did I mention that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good? Because it is.
So granted, we already had a ton working for us from the get-go, and not much changed once we got to our seats… thanks to the gracious Clevelander staff plowing us with enough alcohol to kill a herd of elephants. It wasn’t my intention to drink that much, but as they say, “When in Rome,” right? In addition I’d also love to tell you about all the wonderful food they served as well, but after enough drinks, everything starts to look and taste the same. Sure I may have ordered a steak sandwich, but given my state of mind, it could’ve been some little kid’s leather baseball glove for all I knew. Then again even if I did, who cares? I was on vacation. It doesn’t count!
But really, the experience wasn’t just about the seats in The Clevelander’s box (since we totally lucked into those) but instead the club itself. That’s because you don’t need to be staying at The Clevelander or any special place to get in, but instead just need to pay a $10 cover charge, and be sure to leave your inhibitions at the door. And in case you’re wondering, yup, you just read correctly: People paid a cover charge at a baseball game. Have I mentioned how much I love Miami?
And once you get into the club, well, it really is Disneyland for Adults. It’s got all of the trappings of just about every club you’ve ever been to, with loud music and dark lights, and dancers shaking their hips, only at Marlins Park, they do it on the ledge of a pool (Yes, Marlins Park has a pool. Of course it does). Oh, and you know what the coolest part is too? If you play close enough attention, you might actually pick up on the baseball game being played 25 feet behind you. Crazy, right?
Anyway, the club scene was cool during the game and only got better afterward, when most people come in from the stadium just to see what the place is all about. And it’s at that exact moment where the greatest confluence of club life and baseball, fantasy and reality mix together. There are folks in baseball jerseys mingling with those in bikini tops, with a smattering of orange, teal and bright green Marlins gear mixed in. Look to your left, and you see some punk 22-year-old who just got out of the pool, and on the right, a middle-aged dude with a camera around his neck, trying to sneak a peek at the dancers without his wife catching him. To steal a line from the movie “Field of Dreams,” my first thought when I walked in the club, “Is this heaven?” No my friends, its Marlins Park. And if you don’t think I’ve already booked my bachelor party, wedding reception, divorce proceedings and funeral services for the venue already, well, apparently you don’t know me all that well.
From there the club turned into a lot of fun, with half the crowd plenty loose from hanging out at the bar the entire game, and the other half trying their hardest to catch up as quickly as possible. There was plenty of good music (mostly Latin, since the club/baseball stadium/slice of heaven is located in Little Havana), and plenty more dancing, which just so happens to be an activity that you’d normally have to hold a gun to my head to get me to participate in. Thankfully though we were at the new Marlins Park where the liquor is expensive and moral behavior non-existent, and at some point, I turned into a modern day Liberace. Just without all the glitter and stuff. As I told my friends that afternoon, I was smiling so hard that I used muscles in my face I didn’t even know existed.
And really the more I reflect on it, the more I think it was the total randomness of everything which put it over the top. The best analogy I can come up with is as follows: You know when your husband or wife drags you to a movie that you totally don’t want to see and it turns out to be not so bad, so you end up leaving in a great mood because your expectations were so low to begin with? That maybe it wasn’t the best movie you’ve ever seen, but it was still a million times better than you could’ve ever imagined?
Yeah, well that’s the best way I’d describe the experience at Marlins Park. We all knew we were going to a baseball game and we all thought that we might have a good time, but nobody was expecting…well, that. Nobody expected the drinks and dancing, nor the pool and loosely clad women. In other words, no one knew they were going to a party, where a baseball game just so happened to break out in the background. Or was it vice versa? I honestly don’t know. Regardless, one of my favorite expressions in life is that “Sometimes the best expectations are no expectations at all,” (it was actually the title of one of the chapters in my book). Well, I think that expression would totally, appropriately explain my trip to Marlins Park.
In the end, let me go ahead and be real for a second: Marlins Park isn’t for everyone. I know that I’m young and was on vacation and had a very unique set of circumstances come up to make the experience a perfect storm of awesomeness. I really did get lucky. At the same time, if you ever are at the stadium, it really is something that you need to check out. If only to say that you did it, before getting yelled at by your wife for staring at the dancers.
At the very least, I really can say there is no place in the world quite like Marlins Park. Fenway certainly isn’t and neither is Wrigley, nor any club in Miami, Vegas or Ibiza.
Nope, Marlins Park is one of a kind.
It really is Disneyland for Adults, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
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@Aaron_Torres I must have missed this one. I just read the one where you tried to convince me to like Lebron & the Heat #NotAChance
@Aaron_Torres I started reading it but it cuts off the font in middle of article and I can't read it. Re-send it in another form if u can.
@Aaron_Torres Ha, good stuff. I have to ask, was that group of awesome fellow travelers from California that you met a group of women?
@Aaron_Torres Just read the article, pretty pumped I got a quote in there! But tell me the truth, did you hook up in that club? #realtalk