Thousands of fans from all corners of the country Tuesday descended on Miami for the All-Star Game, and except for the scalpers, they seemed to be deliriously happy.
William Roa, Jacob Suit-Collazo and an endless array of colorfully clad baseball fans at Marlins Park proved that when it comes to the Midsummer Classic, fellowship trumps divisiveness.
Roa, 22, a die-hard Yankees fan from North Miami via New Jersey, wore the name of former Yankee Bernie Williams on the back of his navy blue jersey. Suit-Collazo, 9, of Orlando, wore Washington Nationals All-Star “Bryce Harper’’ on the back of his red one. Both beamed as they clutched baseballs they caught, side-by-side, in the right-center field nosebleed seats during batting practice, chattering nonstop as they reveled in their first All-Star Game.
“This is a celebration for all fans,’’ Roa said, describing “the rush” he felt as the ball hit his glove. “During the regular season or playoffs, there’s a lot of rivalry. Here, everyone puts aside their differences and celebrates baseball.”
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Said Suit-Collazo, nodding in agreement: “This ball bounced off a seat and I caught it! My grandma says she’s going to put my ticket with it in a frame.”
The game drew the best players from each of the 30 teams in the major leagues. During player introductions, several Latin players, such as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina of the Puerto Rican team that lost to the United States in the World Baseball Classic final, held up their homelands’ flags and received some of the loudest ovations. Others included Braves’ outfielder Ender Inciarte, a Venezuelan who also got hearty applause.
Moments before the game’s first pitch, baseball celebrated its best Latin American-born players. Seven Hall of Famers — Roberto Alomar, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Pedro Martínez, Tony Pérez, and Pudge Rodríguez (a 2017 selection) — threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna was among the game’s modern-day Latino stars who were on the receiving end of the pitch. Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio was honored, but did not attend the game.
Chicago Cubs fan Jean Marie Tidbit Carrino, 62, profiled this week in the Miami Herald as possibly the longest streak-holder for All-Star Games — 54 years — bounced in her seat when asked about her experience in Miami.
“Oh my god,’’ she said, “the parade was so exciting and then the Home Run Derby [Monday] night! It was awesome. We got to really mingle with the players. AWEsome!
“Yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, YAY!” Carrino said breathlessly.
Fellow Cards fans Lisa and Tad Mueller and their high school sophomore son Luke Mueller flew to Miami from Fort Atkinson, Iowa — population 337.
“It’s our first All-Star Game in our 26th stadium,” said Tad, who teaches agriculture at a community college. “We have a goal before he graduates from high school to visit all the stadiums.”
Said Lisa: “I enjoy watching the people and the excitement of being in a big city with everything going on. This is my first time in Miami. I love Miami. We don’t get to see the ocean in Iowa.”
Near the stadium, parking seemed to be going smoothly. But not everything was exactly as advertised.
Outside the Bowl Bar & Liquors on the corner of Northwest Seventh Street and Northwest 17th Avenue, Yosbel Medina held up one side of a handwritten sign that said “$10 Parking” in red.
On the other side, when drivers slowed to get a closer look: “$50.”
“It’s what you gotta pay to the owner,” Medina explained. “He’s got to make his money.”
Nearby, a frustrated scalper held a pack of All-Star tickets, trying to convince fans to splurge on the game. “I’m selling for $200 but they won’t settle. They want to spend $150,” he said, afraid to give his name. “I make more money for regular games: $1,500 for the Cubs.”
At game time, MLB.com still had tickets for sale — six together in section 312 went for $220 apiece. There were scattered empty seats, although many fans were roaming the stadium.
Roa, the young man who caught the foul ball, said he bought his $275 face-value ticket for $225 from tickpick.com about a week ago. His Futures Game ticket Sunday cost $10, a $40 savings.
“This was on my bucket list,” Roa said, “a perfect opportunity.”
Miami Herald sportswriters Manny Navarro and George Richards contributed to this report.