There's a buzz in Marlins Park, but I'm pretty sure it's the air conditioning. After all, how much noise can a few thousand people make in a stadium built for 36,000? Factor in that one-third to one-half of the crowd is rooting for the opposing team, and at least one-quarter of the crowd is completely indifferent to anything happening on the field, and you have at most 800 or 900 people who are actually paying attention to the action on the field.
In short, it's a typical Marlins home game.
But don't misunderstand. I have no interest in writing another account of how the duplicitous Marlins ownership has antagonized, angered and alienated an entire fan base and city -- quite the contrary. I'm actually writing this to thank the ownership. Confused? Let me clarify.
If I were from Miami or South Florida, I would loathe Jeffrey Loria, David Samson and their minions. I would rail for hours about how they ripped off taxpayers and stubbornly put their new stadium in an inconvenient, practically inaccessible location from millions of Marlins fans. I would go on and on about how even if you decide to venture the hour or two down to the stadium from parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, there is absolutely nothing to do near the site. And that's before I would work myself into a rage about how they signed a crop of new stars, redesigned the uniforms, sold the merchandise, then traded the players, leaving my children with barely worn Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes jerseys.
But again, that's not why I'm writing this. I'm writing because as a baseball fan in general and a Red Sox fan in particular, none of the above really bothers me. In fact, because of the above complaints, which I hear endlessly from my friends who are would-be Marlins fans or ex-Marlins fans (there are very few actual, bona fide, current Marlins fans), I have benefitted. As the potential home town fans have stayed away from Marlins Park, demand for tickets is nonexistent and has created, in my opinion, the best bargain in the majors to watch baseball at dirt cheap prices.
Not only that, when you combine the sheer number of empty seats and a decent amount of apathy by the stadium ushers, you can use your lower bowl seat to move around the stadium almost at will. Feel like watching the first few innings along the third baseline? No problem. Want to move to the first base side to get a better look at a Giancarlo Stanton at-bat after the fourth inning, go for it. Nobody cares. It's excellent.
During the past few years I have seen the biggest stars in baseball, live, from box seats, for about the same price as an IMAX movie. Hell, my father and I had an entire lower–level section to ourselves when the Red Sox were in town last year. This year I've seen half of the National League All-Star team from just a few rows off the field. I saw David Wright with some solid glove work. I saw Stephen Strasburg from both the left and right side of the plate.
On one particular evening when the Nationals were in town, a Friday night, no less, after watching the first few innings in our $17 seats along the third base line, then a few more behind first base, my friends and I made our way to the Budweiser outfield bar for a few innings, then decided to pay the $10 cover charge to get into the Clevelander, which is a bar/club built into the left field wall where they have rows of seats only separated from the actual outfield by a chain-link fence.
Since it was a Marlins game, these seats were completely empty, so we took up the whole row, practically sitting on the warning track, about 20 feet from Bryce Harper. If you're keeping tabs at home, that's a grand total of $27 worth of tickets for seats about 15 rows back behind third base, another few innings at seats maybe 20 rows behind first base, a few innings sitting in deep left, and the last few sharing the outfield with one of baseball's brightest young stars.
I did a little StubHub research to give you an idea of what an amazing bargain this actually is. The same seats we had behind the third base line that we got for $17 at Marlins Park would be $304 at Yankee Stadium. The first base side seats, which were a little farther away, would be $184. The left field seats would be $84. And since the Audi club is the closest thing comparable to The Clevelander at Yankee Stadium (but with far worse seats), we'll use that as a comparison. Tickets for the Audi club run about $400. The grand total: $972 ... versus $27 at Marlins Park.
By my math, that makes the Marlins Park experience about a 36 times better value than the most expensive venue in baseball to watch the exact same players. And just for arguments sake, let's say the ticket prices at Busch Stadium or Dodger Stadium or AT&T Park or any other non-New York/Boston/Philly stadium are half as much, you'd still be spending $400 at that park to watch the same players for under $30 at Marlins Park.
All of this is to say that while I completely understand the bile and venom Marlins fans have for their clueless, careless ownership, selfishly, I just wanted to say thank you, Jeffrey Loria. I'll probably never know what it's like to own my own ballpark, but I appreciate you allowing me to have the run of yours on game nights for about the cost of three beers at CitiField. Keep up the great work.
-- Jon Finkel is the author of The Dadvantage: Stay In Shape On No Sleep With No Time And No Equipment. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Finkel.