Walking through the turnstiles, grabbing a box of popcorn and catching a glimpse of the freshly cut outfield grass for the first time; there is nothing more Americana than attending a Major League Baseball game.
I’ve done it many times. I’ve been to games at the old Marlins ballpark (through its many name changes), and at Shea Stadium and Citi Field in New York. But when I entered Marlins Park earlier this month, I didn’t walk through a turnstile. And my popcorn was free.
Earlier this summer, I interned for The Sid Rosenberg Show on WMEN radio 640 AM. While I was there, I made plans with the show’s producer, Steve Zemach, a New York Mets fan like myself, to attend a Mets-Marlins game when the Mets came down in August. Specifically, we wanted to see Mets ace pitcher Matt Harvey.
After weeks of trying to figure out what day Harvey would actually pitch (which turned out to be Aug. 1), we sent in media pass requests. On July 30, we received confirmation.
So when Zemach and I entered Marlins Park, we walked through the media entrance near home plate. I signed my name on a sign-in sheet and walked into the bowels of Marlins Park. After walking for a while, Zemach and I hung a sharp left, through a tunnel and into box seats on the first base side.
I collect autographed memorabilia and always enjoy getting to games early to get autographs. It was grueling that the first sight of the field I saw was Zack Wheeler, the prized Mets rookie pitcher, signing autographs. I could have gotten a picture (definitely not an autograph), but I didn’t want to push my limits.
Zemach and I stood on the warning track in shallow right field and watched some of the Mets pitchers long toss. I took a picture on the warning track, said hello to a friend who’s a Marlins batboy and headed up into the concourse. It was Camp Day. Of all the games, thankfully this was the one I didn’t have to sit in the regular seating.
We then walked to the Clevelander, a lavish nightclub beyond the left field wall. We checked out the swimming pool (seriously, a swimming pool) and the bar. I didn’t swim, and I’m underage, so we left and headed to the press box.
On our way there, we ran into Fox Sports Florida’s Rich Waltz and SportsNet New York’s Kevin Burkhardt. In the triple-tiered press room, Zemach and I sat to the far left in the second row. ESPN’s Adam Rubin sat directly in front of me. Legendary Mets PR coordinator Jay Horowitz and WFAN Radio’s Ed Coleman sat to my far right, along with Jorge Castillo of the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
I had a free vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreos on top with a cup of lemonade, as well as Zemach’s leftover popcorn. I had two overly greasy corndogs and mushy fries that cost $5. Harvey pitched his worst game of the year, and the Marlins won 3-0.
If there was one negative to the day, it was that my press pass didn’t allow me clubhouse access. Zemach’s, however, did. This may get me in trouble, but after the game, we switched passes, and I used his pass to get into the Mets locker room.
On our way down after the game, Zemach and I rode the elevator with Marlins President Larry Beinfest and General Manager Mike Hill. (I actually interviewed Hill one time after he gave a speech at Wellington High School.)
When Horowitz opened the doors for the nine beat writers, I entered. The locker room was dead silent. It was shaped like a football with the lockers all facing the middle.
The reporters were directed to a side wall, where Mets Manager Terry Collins soon came out to give his post-game press conference. When Collins finished, we waited for Harvey. After Harvey, we spoke to Marlon Byrd, Ike Davis and Bobby Parnell. I wanted to see star third baseman David Wright, but he was nowhere in sight. Zemach texted me at 4:08 p.m., saying we should leave by 4:20 p.m. to beat the Miami traffic. The clock ticked to 4:32 p.m. quicker than I could have imagined. D-Wright (as I call him) eventually appeared. Most of the reporters had already left, and those who remained didn’t go over to ask him any questions. So I didn’t either. I put my recorder into my pocket, took one last look at my surroundings and headed out of the clubhouse.
I’ve been to Marlins Park twice before. Once to see the Marlins play the Dodgers, and once to see the Marlins play the Nationals. I’ve interviewed professional athletes and covered collegiate sporting events. I’ve worked in the press box at the Syracuse University Carrier Dome.
But this was the first time I’ve been a member of the working press at a professional sporting event. I hope it won’t be my last.
ABOVE: Joshua Hyber stands on the field at Marlins Park.