Fabiola Santiago

Leave the home run sculpture alone, Jeter! It belongs to Miami now.

The home run sculpture in the outfield in Marlins Park.
The home run sculpture in the outfield in Marlins Park. Courtesy

Shucks, Miami.

We’re not going to leave much for future archaeologists to dig up to illustrate our generation’s path through here, are we?

We create something that becomes endearingly ours, and when you least expect it, it’s borrón y cuenta nueva. Erase history and start a new chapter.

He’s not been in town long but already the new kid on the block — Marlins owner Derek Jeter — wants to banish our Homer, the $2.5 million home run sculpture at Marlins Park that belongs not to Jeter but to the taxpayers who (kicking and screaming) paid for most of that stadium.

Hands off, Jeter!

The New York Mets have their storied and sometimes malfunctioning Home Run Apple. The White Sox have their exploding pinwheels, the Phillies their ringing Liberty Bell, and the Houston Astros their 19th century locomotive atop the left-field wall.

We have our jumping fish.

Homer may be as tacky as plastic pink flamingos on the lawn, but it’s us.

Homer speaks to our soul the way a pair of chancletas does, whether they’re flip-flops on our pedicure-treated feet or they’re in abuela’s hands to enforce home rules.

We’re talking stuff that builds character, shapes memories — and is fodder for a hearty laugh in this politically divided community. Kids love the carnivalesque contraption and out-of-town visitors get a kick out it.

“If it doesn’t light up, even people who say they don’t like it start complaining, ‘Why isn’t it lighting up?’ ” says my season-ticket holder nephew. “When you see it in action, it’s cool.”

But I get where Jeter is coming from; it’s not love at first sight with Homer.

The first time I saw the Marlins home run sculpture I hated it. Gag-me-with-a-spoon hated it.

I was still coming off a years-long stint as the Herald’s visual arts writer, and my critic sensibilities were set on automatic high alert. Say what? You call that amusement park trinket a sculpture? I wondered if New York-based pop artist Red Grooms was poking fun at us when he dreamed up the frilly color scheme.

A waste of good money.

“Stick to sports,” I mumbled from my seat behind first base.

Previous owner Jeffrey Loria had that kind of effect on us.

Then, something magical happened.

It was Cuban Heritage Night at the stadium and the Marlins were playing against the Colorado Rockies. There was drama in the air on and off the field. Rabble-rouser manager Ozzie Guillen had become a community pariah for sweet-on-Fidel-Castro commentary. Hanley Ramirez was the Marlins star to watch. Pitching for the Rockies was the oldest starting pitcher in the league, Jamie Moyer.

In the fourth inning, with the Marlins badly losing, the Rockies’ pitcher started sweating it. Literally, I could see from our seats his arm tiring, his shirt becoming wetter as, ball after ball, he walked Marlin after Marlin.

The bases were loaded when Giancarlo Stanton stepped up to the plate.

Next thing I know, Stanton hit the ball so far and so hard he smashed the glass on that fancy new scoreboard.

Homer cranked up, lighting up in orange, green, pink and blue to celebrate Stanton’s home run — and all those players coming in and scoring. Fish flew all around a shooting fountain at the base.

That’s what you call a grand slam with razzle-dazzle.

Homer grew on us. It’s now a signature part of the Marlins Park experience.

Fans — not politicians, and I’m sorry to start on a bad note with you, but not you either, Jeter — should decide its fate. Think of this as an outreach opportunity. Have some fun. Open it up to a vote.

Who cares if Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez doesn’t like it?

He didn’t like our libraries either his first term, wanted to get rid of half of them, slash budgets and cut hours. But voters showed him he was wrong. He became a convert, funded them, even had his picture taken reading to the kids.

Unless he’s convinced you that somebody did a job on Homer and he’s suffering from some kind of bad juju (happens around here) that’s keeping the Marlins from winning, I don’t know why you would need Gimenez’s approval.

It’s your customers you need to listen to, the people of Miami.

It’s good for business. And you can’t fool us. We’ve been through a lot with this spaceship stadium. You’ve asked us for patience while you rebuild the franchise, but if your dalliance with city hall has to do with money, forget about it.

Listen to what reader Mark Minervino wrote: It’s “unacceptable to make willy-nilly decisions on something the county and taxpayers own, without giving the tax-paying citizens a voice. After all, Loria paid 30 percent of the total cost of the stadium, not even half. Ultra rich people in Pinecrest, Cocoplum and Fisher Island make redecorating decisions like this, but this is inappropriate for publicly funded properties. The removal cost alone is going to be exorbitant, never mind the waste involved in scrapping a work of art this costly. Not to mention it’s a custom piece. That makes it nearly impossible to recover any of the expense at auction. After decimating a team that was two starting pitchers short of contention, I say enough. Let the sculpture be, or put it up to a referendum so we, the taxpayers, can weigh in on it.”

He’s right. Marlins Park belongs to the taxpayers who were conned into paying for it. The multimillion-dollar sculpture comes with it.

If that’s not a good enough reason, just imagine several generations from now — after rising sea levels turn us into Atlantis — how much fun it will be for archaeologists studying our culture to scuba dive down to the spaceship in the center of the city, peer inside, and find our home run Homer!

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments