Sun Life Stadium

Colorado Rockies @ Florida Marlins

2011 Regular Season at Sun Life Stadium. Florida Marlins hosted the Colorado Rockies in a night game, the second match of a three-game series. Considering the heat, rain, and humidity in Florida, weather conditions were perfect for baseball in Miami Gardens. This was the final year for the Florida Marlins here at Sun Life Stadium. The New Marlins Park would open in 2012 as the 22nd new MLB stadium since the New Comiskey Park opened in 1991. The team moved there as the re-named Miami Marlins, complete with a marketing plan that included a new image, new logo, new uniforms, etc. Sun Life Stadium was originally built as Joe Robbie Stadium (opened 1987) with a budget of $115 million, $273 million in today’s dollars. That’s still impressive. Construction cost can easily surpass $500 million in the current market. This was the only MLB park that was initially built for Football. Six Superbowl games were played here (1989, 1995, 1999, 2007, 2010, 2020). The 1997 & 2003 World Series were also played here and the Florida Marlins won them both Some of the other names for this facility have been Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, and Land Shark Stadium. As of 2016, its known as Hard Rock Stadium. It now serves as the home of the Miami Dolphins (NFL), the Miami Hurricanes (NCAA), and the Orange Bowl. The long history of sporting events continues with the NCAA National Football Championship in 2021.

It’s hard to believe that the 1997 & the 2003 World Series were played here. When the baseball game is between innings, reminders of a football stadium set in. At first, seating capacity was set at almost 75,000 but has been scaled down over the years. It was eventually made the home of the newly expanded Florida Marlins in 1993. For baseball, seating was set to some 40,000 seats. Most of the time, the sea of orange seating in the upper deck would remain unused during baseball games.

Florida Marlins won the 2003 World Series in Yankee Stadium. Game 7 of the 1997 World Series took place here. On that day, Edgar Renteria hit an 11th inning walk off single to win at all for the Florida Marlins. He will forever be remembered for that victory, a moment in World Series history familiar to most baseball fans. The Franchise enjoyed those two World Championships despite the challenges of playing baseball here. Sun Life Stadium is located 15 miles north of Downtown Miami, an outlying part of town. Games were historically exposed to the constant threat of rain.

In 2011, the Florida Marlins promoted post game concerts after Saturday home games, for the 5th consecutive year, known as the Baker Concrete Super Saturdays. This, in an effort to improve attendance. But the struggle has been real. In August of this same year, The Florida Marlins hosted the Cincinnati Reds in a game that only drew 347 fans, due to Hurricane Irene. It was the least attended game in MLB History. I went on the day “El Gran Combo” was performing, a legendary salsa group from Puerto Rico. They’ve been performing since 1962 and after 49 years they can still bring out the best in a crowd. They were dancing in the rows and aisles. Within a matter of minutes after the game, stage, sound and lights were set up around the second base area. The concert alone was well worth the trip. This was also a double bonus for “El Gran Combo.” They’re huge baseball fans. “Pitbull” and “U2” also performed that summer. Fans also had the option of purchasing VIP “pit passes” for a more up-close experience including pregame parties and celebrity meet and great. Despite the season, Saturday nights were a win-win.

Camden Yards

Los Angeles Angels @ Baltimore Orioles.

2011 Regular Season at Camden Yards or just Orioles Park (Opened 1992). It was the first of a series of new MLB parks; ushering in a retro design that incorporated the ballpark feel of yesteryear with today’s technology. Many other new ballparks would follow the same concept in the coming years. Another element of retro-ballpark design is incorporating the existing bricks and mortar of the surrounding community. Take the warehouse beyond right field. It’s the most recognizable landmark in MLB and the longest brick building east of the Mississippi River.

In the cookie-cutter era of the 1960’s and 1970’s, stadiums were mostly built in a remote part of town; surrounded by a sea of parking lots. Camden Yards started the biggest construction boom since concrete and steel were first used to build Shibe Park & Forbes Field. Other items incorporated in the design are the original foul poles from Memorial Stadium; where the Baltimore Orioles played before.  

Baltimore is the birthplace of Babe Ruth. As you walk eastbound past the warehouse, you’re not going to want to miss the Birthplace of Babe Ruth Museum on Emory Street. It’s literally a flyball from Camden Yards. In fact, there are layers of history here. Continue eastbound for a couple blocks and you will find the Inner Harbor: the site of the War of 1812. At the time, Mary Pickersgill sewed the American Flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the American national anthem. Mary Pickersgill’s home is a museum commonly known as the “Flag House” nearby and the Inner Harbor is now a trendy tourist attraction. When at Camden Yards, beware of the sudden shouts of “Oh!” during the national anthem. “Oh!, say can you see, for instance. It will catch you by surprise if you’re not expecting it.

This week marks the 25th Anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr’s record of consecutive games played, surpassing Lou Gehrig with 2,131 games on September 6, 1995. It’s ranked as one of MLBs most memorable moments. Every day during pre-game admission, fans relive that historic day in Camden Yards; on the Jumbotron. No doubt, seeing Cal Ripken Jr. walking around the field, reaching out to greeting fans never gets old. It was simple yet significant. Between 1982 and 1998, he showed up and left it all on the field. There is a school of thought in baseball that Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and the chase for Babe Ruth’s home run record saved baseball in 1998, after the dark episode of the 1994 Strike. MLB had an amazing revenue year in 1998. But for me, Cal Ripken’s work ethic brought me back to baseball after the strike. He is the iconic figure of Baltimore Orioles baseball. He and Babe Ruth are in a league of their own.

The traditional “Orioles” name is traced back to the American Association in the late nineteenth century. But this team is originally the St. Louis Browns of the American League who was purchased and moved in 1954. They mostly dominated in the 1960 and 1970 era with four World Series appearances and the 1966 and 1970 World Championship. They also won the 1983 World Series with Cal Ripken Jr.

The Los Angeles Angels were in the heat of a pennant race. Manager Mike Scioscia slotted his ace Jered Weaver on 3 days’ rest. Baltimore lost 11-2. They were virtually out of any post season talk. The next day, they started a run of winning 7 of the last 11 games. The Epic “Game 162” of the 2011 regular season left four teams still trying to clinch 2 post season spots. The rest of baseball was implicated as teams didn’t know where to travel or who to face in the playoffs. It would all be decided in a compacted 129 minutes and it ended here in tragic form for the Boston Red Sox. The Baltimore Orioles became one of the legendary late season spoilers.

Nationals Park

Florida Marlins @ Washington Nationals

2011 Regular Season at Nationals Park; home of the Washington Nationals since 2009.  The smoke from the grill in the restaurant beyond the outfield rolled across the field with the rich smell of barbecue, a huge distraction. Phenom right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg was starting. He had recently returned from Tommy John Surgery and rehabbing to pitch 24 innings in 2011. Wilson Ramos was the starting catcher. He would be kidnaped in his home country of Venezuela the following November and later rescued alive and well. Alex Cora played his final season here with the Nationals. He came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the 13th. If that at-bat were today, there would have been a runner at second base at the start of the inning Nationals lost to Marlins 4-1. Right Fielder Jaysen Werth, who signed for $126 million with the Nationals, was playing the first of seven years in his contract, leaving the still relevant Philadelphia Phillies raised eyebrows in baseball. Aside from making him the 14th richest player, there was a real push for the World Championship in Washington D.C. The 2010 first round draftee Bryce Harper was at the Arizona Fall League and would debut the next year.

GM Mike Rizzo continued his push to rebuild when he drafted Rice University 3rd baseman Anthony Rendon in June of 2011. Perhaps the team was too careful with their ace when they ultimately shut-down Stephen Strasburg in mid-September of 2012 and excluded him from the post season roster. Reasoning for the decision came partially from his doctor who suggested it, in lieu of the short amount of innings he pitched in 2011. The team went on to a series of disappointments in the post season; 2012, 2014, 2016, & 2017. Their adversity ended last year when they beat the Houston Astros to win the World Series. Anthony Rendon had a great seat on that tour from the beginning while Bryce Harper mirrored Jaysen Werth’s move by signing with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million over 13 years in 2019.

Originally the Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals landed in Washington D.C. in 2006. There have been four MLB teams that called Washington D.C. home.

  • Washington Senators, Washington Statesmen (1891-1899)
  • Washington Senators (1901-1960) moved to Minneapolis to become the Minnesota Twins
  • Washington Senators (1961-1970) moved to Arlington to become the Texas Rangers
  • Montreal Expos (1969-2005) moved in 2006 to become the Washington Nationals

RFK Stadium, where games were played between 1961 and 2008, is scheduled for demolition in 2022. Nationals Park is in south-east Washington D.C., minutes from the monuments. The dome of the Capital is visible behind Left Field. Although it’s a year like none other, the fan-base is enjoying a renaissance period as the 2019 World Champions.

Turner Field

New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves

2011 regular season at Turner Field. The day before was Jackie Robinson Day; when everyone wears No. 42. But the game was rained out. There was also a tornado outbreak in the Carolinas just north. The next day, I traveled from Florida for the weekend and was lucky enough to catch a double-header on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. So, in game one, his No. 42 was on the uniforms of all the players and coaches. That alone made this trip well worth the time and effort. But, having dinner between games over centerfield and watching the sunset at the old ballpark was an added bonus. The history of the Braves is perhaps the longest existing thread where we can trace back to the origins of Major League Baseball. The Braves are the oldest professional franchise in sports; starting with the 1860’s Cincinnati Red Stockings that went 57-0. Harry Wright moved his team to Boston.

The Boston Red Stockings were one of eight charter teams that established the National League in 1876. New England enjoyed having two baseball teams with the Boston Americans (Red Sox) established in 1901. Braves then moved to Milwaukee in 1952 and this mid-west era, for the Braves, saw attendance records, the 1957 and 1958 NL. Pennant, 1957 World Championship, and finally a rookie named Hank Aaron bloom to greatness. He was part of that historic move to Atlanta in 1966; the first professional team in the south-east region.

What makes a ballpark great is how it remembers the Legends. Many reminders around Turner Field of the great Hank Aaron, among other greats, who broke the all-time home run record in Fulton County Stadium, which once stood just yards from Turner Field. The Braves moved here in 1966; although construction of Fulton County Stadium was completed in 1965. Due to obligations with City of Milwaukee, 1965 was a lame duck year in Milwaukee County Stadium.

In 1997, Turner Field became the second venue in Atlanta for the Braves. From 1966 to 1996, Fulton County Stadium was their first home in Atlanta. Later, Turner Field would be built as Centennial Olympic Stadium in 1996 as the City of Atlanta was host for the Games of the XXVI Olympiad. The Atlanta Braves had just won the 1995 World Championship in Fulton County Stadium. They were in the post season, in one form or another, for 14 consecutive seasons. Considering how busy it was, the move from Fulton County Stadium to Turner Field was seamless.

Turner Field is now used by Georgia State University. As of 2017, the Atlanta Braves now play at Truist Park, not to be confused with SunTrust Park; the original name when it first opened just three years ago. It’s hard to keep up with the naming rights business. It’s at a newly developed area in Cobb County; about 10-15 miles north of here. It’s expected to spur-on more development. You would think that this park could sustain the Braves another 20 years. Apparently, the demographic trends have moved away from downtown Atlanta; part of an effort to expand the south-east beltline. The 2020 Atlanta Region’s Plan is a 20-year vision for the future with the hope of adapting to technology and change in the area. The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has $85.1 billion behind this plan.