When the highlight of your Marlins Park experience is a chicken, you know things didn’t go well. I’ll take about 30% of the blame on this one, with the other 70% heading out in equal parts to Enterprise rent-a-car and the City of Miami.
I’d planned to head from where the family is staying for spring break to the Cubs game in Miami yesterday via a rental car (surprisingly affordable if you don’t care what car you get). I had an early-morning reservation so I could get on the road and make the 100-mile drive in plenty of time to be at the park for some walking around before first pitch. Things went south immediately, as Enterprise was suffering through a computer outage (they say) which apparently caused them to not have the cars that folks had reserved. I don’t think it was audible, but I walked into their lobby, saw the crowd of people – including several in Cubs shirts, clearly with the same plan – and dropped an immediate “oh f***.”
I did not get on the road until barely and hour before first pitch, but was hopeful I could make up time. And for the first 50 miles, I was sure I had. I’m not advocating speeding, kids, but if you keep up with the aggressive flow of traffic in South Florida, you can really fly. But thing is, despite my excellent speed, the ETA on my arrival kept ticking backwards. Another “oh f***” as I realized that could only mean there was frightening traffic ahead, which, of course, there was. If you miss your window to leave early enough, that’s the penance you pay.
Even still, thanks to the slightly delayed start to the game and the crazy long first inning, I could see Marlins Park from the highway before the first inning had ended. Maybe it was going to be OK? Nope. Because I sat in that spot for nearly an entire inning, since the highway dumps out right next to the park, but the city had closed all the lanes except one headed in that direction.
By the bottom of the second inning, I was at least trying to get into one of the parking garages around the ballpark, which seem to be the only parking available in the area. The city’s crowd-control efforts were once again stupid as all get-out, with absolutely no planning evident for the thousands of people descending on the area (thanks, Jeter), and police directing traffic literally shrugging as they indicate that cars in this line should go, I don’t know, somewhere over that way maybe?
After another half-inning of (im)patiently waiting in line, I get to the first garage only to find that it’s pre-paid only. It’s a gigantic garage. I guess I should have investigated that beforehand (that’s where I’ll take a little blame for the fiasco), but it’s just not something I ever would have considered. You go to a ballpark, you can find parking. It’s just the way it is.
So, after doing that whole thing once again at another garage, feeling the rage swell within me like a Hulk who stays relatively petite but is nonetheless angry, I just started circling all around to try to find some street parking. That process would have gone much better if there weren’t SO many roads randomly closed by construction. Every other one-way street was randomly closed for a block, as chunks of the road were missing. I mean, every city has construction, but this looked like some deity had fired a shotgun from above, and Miami was like, “OK, we’ll do some where there and there and there today.”
Finally, as the 4th inning was getting ready to start, I found a residential street over a mile from the ballpark that I thought looked OK to park in. I can’t say I was confident I wouldn’t return to a ticket or a towed car, but whatever. Then, I started booking it to the stadium. The rub? Although my foot is totally healed from surgery about seven weeks ago, I am nowhere close to being fully able to walk like a normal human. Within five steps, it was another “oh f***” moment, realizing what I was going to have to do on one and a half feet. But, damn it, I was here, and I was going to see some of the game if it killed me. Thumping along in my Frankenstein walk, I actually made pretty good time to the stadium (albeit with my foot throbbing (don’t tell my physical therapist)).
The best part was the chicken that joined me for a block. Yeah, like, an actual chicken:
I’ll get there eventually. pic.twitter.com/hpH78SM3pI
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 29, 2018
I have no doubt that the chicken didn’t actually want to walk with me – it kept looking back as if to say, “Hey, pal, why are you following me!?” – but it was nice to have a friend after such a rough morning.
After I’d cooked and eaten the chicken for sustenance, I finally got to the park, walked another half mile (I checked on my watch) to circumnavigate the stadium and get to my seat halfway through the fourth inning. I did not feel good:
When you arrive for Cubs opening day 4 innings too late thanks to car rental problems, insane traffic, no parking, 1.5 mile walk, and some bullshit just happened in the game, but it’s still the Cubs opener. pic.twitter.com/baCo1DBEgy
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 29, 2018
At least the game went well from there, as the Cubs re-took the lead, and then pulled away late.
Marlins Park, itself, was surprisingly unremarkable. I have always enjoyed the look and feel of it on TV, but in person, it’s pretty standard mega stadium fare. Even the infamous home run sculpture – the only good part of the park, it turns out – looks awkwardly small out there in center field. The crowd was understandably lethargic, except when the Cubs did something good. By the later innings, the scoreboard’s desperate pleas to “MAKE SOME NOISE!” were met with more silence than I would have thought possible.
The walk back to the car was mostly uneventful – though I will say there are a fair number of what appear to be wild dogs in the area – and other than taking many hours thanks to insane traffic, the drive back up north was similarly standard. Well, except for the fact that it felt like my swollen foot was going to burst out of my shoe until I could get somewhere to elevate and ice it. Even this morning, it still looks magnificently sausage-like.
Overall, the experience was brutal. How much can I attribute to the park, itself, and the city? Like I said, it wasn’t entirely on them, so it’s probably unfair of me to say I’ll never go back to that brightly-colored hellhole, but … I will probably not be returning.