Yankees impressed by Marlins' new ballpark
A-Rod, Girardi know how important stadium is to Miami
MIAMI -- Alex Rodriguez remembers taking multiple buses as a child and trying to sneak into the Orange Bowl, where he'd watch Dan Marino's heroics for the Miami Dolphins. The building he walked into as an invited guest on Sunday, he said, is in "our hood."
As the Yankees helped work out the kinks of beautiful new Marlins Park, the nine innings of exhibition baseball played as a backdrop to a homecoming for Rodriguez, who grew up about 17 miles away in West Kendall, Fla., and currently lives even closer to the sparkling facility.
"I mean, it's just a really big deal, being here from South Florida," Rodriguez said after he exited the Yankees' 10-8 victory over the Marlins. "I love this place.
"This is home. As a South Floridian, I just feel very proud, not only of the people here but of [Marlins owner] Jeff Loria and the Marlins. I wish them well."
Rodriguez said that his daughters will accompany him on a tour of the park on Monday. Together, they'll take in the wild art-deco sculpture in left-center field, the tropical fish tanks behind home plate, the glitzy views of the Miami skyline and all of the stadium's contemporary amenities and architecture.
"Without question, this is kind of like, 'Hello, Major League Baseball, we're here!'" Rodriguez said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has some history in Miami as well; he served as the Marlins' manager in 2006, winning National League Manager of the Year honors.
Girardi said he was struck by the brightness of the place, and he is most curious to see how the park's big dimensions will play. His impressions after one game: It'll be a fair place to play.
"The ball seemed to carry to left field a little bit, and they said it really carries when the roof is opened," Girardi said. "I think it will be open [Monday] night as long as we don't have any weather issues. I'd kind of like to see it both ways, and we'll get that opportunity. It's a nice ballpark."
Girardi also believes the building will have a noticeable impact for the Marlins.
"I think it was important for them to get their own home," Girardi said, "because I think at times they were losing players that they would have liked to hold on to, just because they didn't have revenue sources.
"So I think it's really important for the organization. I think everyone saw what they did in free agency, which they haven't been able to do for awhile, and I think that's good for the organization. I think it's good for the community."
The Yankees didn't waste any time on Sunday as Derek Jeter slapped Ricky Nolasco's first pitch of the afternoon into the corner in right field for a double, and later scored on Robinson Cano's sacrifice fly.
For the Marlins, in the second inning, there was a fitting moment when Miami-raised Gaby Sanchez belted a home run off CC Sabathia.
After the Marlins took a 3-1 lead, the Yankees stormed ahead with five runs off Nolasco in the fifth inning. Curtis Granderson kept the inning going with a two-out, RBI infield single. Cano added a run-scoring double and Rodriguez delivered an RBI single as New York sent nine to the plate.
The Marlins tied the game with a three-run seventh, keyed by Giancarlo Stanton's second RBI single of the day, but the Yankees took the lead for good when Eric Chavez's RBI double scored Bill Hall in the top of the ninth.
By and large, the Yankees seemed impressed by the ballpark, with one caveat. Heavy rains had doused the field on Saturday night with the roof open, leaving the infield softer than it should be.
"That's why you didn't see many guys running very hard on the bases; this is not the type of game you want to bust yourself up on something like that," Nick Swisher said. "I'm sure [Monday] they'll have it ready to go."
Granderson also offered constructive criticism about the two fish tanks that sit behind home plate, with their inhabitants unwittingly swimming around behind the batters in the on-deck circle.
"I saw it before the game, they had the top down so I was able to look down in there," Granderson said. "I just want to see some bigger fish. They need to have a bigger tank, like for a baby whale."
That'd be quite the addition, but larger aquariums won't draw fans -- winning baseball will. Rodriguez compared the Marlins to the National Basketball Association's Miami Heat, saying that if the team wins, the fans will definitely come out.
Now that the Marlins have a world-class facility to call their own, there is no reason to think attendance would be a problem.
"Look, we know what Yankee Stadium means to us in New York; it means the world," Rodriguez said. "It has been a big success for us, and I really hope that [Marlins Park is] a huge success, not only for Major League Baseball, but for Jeff and the Marlins."