Inside a nearly empty Marlins Ballpark, an endangered species stirs to life.
They roam Marlins Park clad in bright orange jerseys, caps, even team pins and earrings. They wave flags, have baseball mitts at the ready, and come with offerings of cupcakes.
These are the fans who come out night after night to cheer on a team in a new home that most have abandoned after only a year.
And they do it for one reason: Loyalty.
Most of the star players might be gone but that doesn’t keep fans like Dori Amador away, specially after their current three-game winning streak led by the always present home run threat of Giancarlo Stanton.
You can see her loyalty from across the field.
Amador is a walking exhibition of Marlins paraphernalia.
Wearing a black first baseman Logan Morrison T-shirt, orange baseball cap speckled with collectable pins, Marlins logo stylized sunglasses, nickel-sized Marlins logo earrings, homemade bracelets and with a matching orange Marlins phone case slung across her chest, Amador is a beacon of baseball.
This new fan of a year and a half was there for Opening Day last year at the 37,000-seat Marlins Park. It was the self-professed NFL girl’s first stab at watching a game she had always despised, dismissing it as boring.
One trip and she was sold.
“I fell in love with the park,” she said. “We enjoyed ourselves so much that we went again and we never stopped going. It just became an obsession for us.”
Obsession is a good word for it.
Amador’s love for the fish is expressed in her Marlins inventory: 10 T-shirts, 10 pins, eight baseballs caught at the games, five bracelets, three jerseys, three hats, three pairs of earrings, two calendars, a phone case, a bag, a canvas print, a Billy the Marlin hat and endless photos and memories.
Inspired by her 91-year-old aunt, Maria Walled, a lifetime baseball and Marlins fan, Amador fell in love with a team that might not be so loveable anymore.
The 46-year-old baker goes to games with anyone who will join her. Her husband, Eduardo, became a fan with her.
“It’s what every dude wants, for his wife to like sports,” her husband of 27 years said with a chuckle. With a Marlins flag-turned-cape slung around his neck, team spirit has obviously taken over his life.
Half the pictures in the living room were replaced with signed Marlins photos. His 25-year-old daughter’s old room is being converted into a Marlins shrine.
Walk in and you will see balls caught at games, some signed and each in their plastic cube case, pictures from calenders given out at watch parties and events, her collection of booklets from each game, bobbleheads of players and of Billy the Marlin, Dori Amador’s favorite.
But she is one of a rare breed.
In their sophomore season at the new park, the Marlins have struggled to attract fans. According to the 2013 Major League Baseball Attendance Report, the Marlins come in last in average home game attendance with 17,262. Upper deck seating is often closed because of low attendance, slicing stadium capacity by 10,000.
Trade after trade, the Marlins have lost most of their star lineup. In 2012, the team won 69 games and lost 93, finishing last in the NL East. A recent three-game winning streak this year is a welcome change to a season with almost twice as many losses as wins, which could be linked to so many young players in owner Jeffrey Loria’s team.