Bienvenido A Miami?

The humidity gripped me the minute we reached the rental car station at Miami International Airport. Fortunately, I like humidity, or else I would have a difficult time living the Baltimore/Washington area in the summer. This was a different humidity, though. Tropical, lush, vaguely intoxicating. We were lured to town by the warm aquamarine ocean water and the beaches, but mostly, by the chance to see the Orioles play at Marlins Park, the latest stop on our ongoing cross-country ballpark tour.

The Orioles headed in to Miami having won three of their last four games and were presumably ready to take on the Marlins who had just lost seven straight. The Orioles won the first game of the series that Friday night, but then lost the next night in a 13-inning walk off that featured the ejection of reliever Brian Matusz for a “foreign substance” on his arm.

On Sunday we pulled into the sun-splashed rocky front driveway of a house in the neighborhood near Marlins Park and headed into the game. One thousand miles from Baltimore, the announced crowd included way more Orioles fans than we have seen in other out-of-town ballparks. I had advised my son to be a respectful guest in another team’s park but the resounding “O!” heard during the singing of the National Anthem made that seem unnecessary.

The day before the game we toured the entire city of Miami. We walked through the Wynwood Walls graffiti and street art district. We took in the Art Deco historic district and enjoyed the scent of Cuban cigars and Cafe Cubano in Little Havana. As a tanned, white haired gentlemen guided his shiny black Maserati convertible through a clearly poor neighborhood, I noted the starkness of the income disparity in the city. Like in many cities, in Miami you see mind-boggling, almost incomprehensible wealth and abject poverty. Evidence of the real estate boom and bust is clear in Miami where brand-new high-rise condominiums and office buildings sit ghost-like, idle and empty with taped up windows. There you find beauty alongside depravity, a subtle sense of danger, corruption, self-indulgence, and conspicuous opulence.

On that Sunday in windy-by-air-conditioning Marlins Park, the Orioles were no-hit for 4 1/3 innings by the usually unexciting Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. I found myself quickly tiring of filing in zeroes on my scorecard. The Marlins fans were energized by their new found success, pounding on chairs, cheering vigorously. Good for them, I thought. We Orioles fans know all too well what it’s like to have a struggling team suddenly start to show some life.

The Marlins scored five runs in four innings against Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez until he was unable to close out the fifth and was removed. He gave up a season-high 10 hits including a solo homerun to Martin Prado (which I thankfully missed because I was standing in line for a chicken taco. The taco was delicious. The home run – not so much).

The Orioles entered the eighth trailing 5-1 and loaded the bases twice in the inning. With one out, Chris Davis grounded out to first to score a run. Then with two outs, Marlins reliever Sam Dyson got Ryan Lavarnway to ground out to second base as the bases were left full and Miami escaped with a 5-2 lead. I was hoping that Miami-area native Manny Machado would put on a show for his hometown fans, but he ended the game with a flyout to center field.

Like Miami itself, the Orioles had chances to mount a comeback in this game but just couldn’t make it happen. They reminded me of the abandoned new condos under halted construction in South Beach. Started with the best of intentions, full of glitz and potential, yet coming up empty.

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(My son watching warm-ups at Marlins Park, Miami, FL, May 24, 2015)