Someone thought to set up artificial palm trees in the outfield pavilion, just to give it a South Florida feel. But there was no mistaking where the meandering Marlins found themselves on Friday, and it wasn’t in their own ballpark back home in Miami — where they should have been.
Hurricane Irma blew them nearly 1,500 miles off course, to the shores of Lake Michigan. Instead of hosting the Brewers at Marlins Park, which was how the schedule had it, the three-game series was moved to Miller Park over hurricane-related staffing and infrastructure concerns in Little Havana.
To make it all a little weirder, the Marlins were the designated “home” team — just to give some semblance of fairness — even though they were nowhere close to home. The “visiting” Brewers batted first.
“It’s obviously not what anybody saw coming when we left Miami in the first place,” Marlins pitcher Adam Conley said.
Nobody could have imagined this wacky odyssey.
When the Marlins left Miami on Sept. 6, their trip was supposed to take them to Atlanta and Philadelphia only. And with Irma approaching, the Marlins permitted family members of players and coaches to go along on the trip to avoid the dangerous storm.
Ten days later, many were still along for the ride.
Wei-Yin Chen’s wife and two children were with him. Conley brought his wife, two children and a nephew. Odrisamer Despaigne started Sunday’s game in Atlanta, flew home to Miami on Tuesday to witness the birth of his first child, and flew to Milwaukee on Friday to rejoin the team.
“My wife probably wants to go home,” Chen said. “But my kids are having so much fun, they probably don’t want to go.”
Said Conley: “The kids love it. The kids don’t know any different. You say one day ‘we’re going to Atlanta.’ Then it’s ‘we’re going to Philadelphia.’ They’re just along for the ride. They’ve been great.”
But Milwaukee wasn’t on the original travel itinerary.
Some players said they were running short on clean clothes.
“I wish I had known because I’m starting to wear the same polos,” first baseman Justin Bour said.
Bour’s journey has kept him on the road for close to three weeks. He was on a minor-league rehab assignment with Jacksonville when it all started. Later, Bour went to Pensacola before joining the Marlins in Atlanta, Philly and Milwaukee.
“It’s unique,” Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler said.
It hasn’t exactly been a fun adventure. The Marlins have lost 15 of their past 17 games, including six of seven on the road trip heading into Friday.
Blame it on Irma.
On Aug. 27, the day the Marlins went to 66-63 to pull within four games in the National League wild-card race, a tropical disturbance formed off the coast of Africa.
It would become Hurricane Irma.
Over the ensuing days, Irma would leave a path of destruction over the Caribbean and Florida while the Marlins went into a tailspin, dropping out of the playoff race entirely.
“I think we’ve handled it OK,” manager Don Mattingly of the extended trip. “We haven’t played very well.”
Barring no unforeseen issues in South Florida, the Marlins are expected to fly home Sunday night and open a brief, three-game homestead against the Mets. Then they had back out for a six-game trip to Phoenix and Denver.
“We travel all the time to play baseball,” Conley said. “I sure would have liked to have been home for a week instead of three days. But at the end of the day, we’re used to 10-day road trips.”
▪ Saturday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (6-7, 5.23 ERA) at Milwaukee Brewers RHP Zach Davies (17-8, 3.67), 7:10 p.m., Miller Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Dillon Peters (0-1, 2.50) at Brewers RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-2, 3.14), 2:10 p.m., Miller Park.