Greg Cote

We love that the All-Star Game is here. Miami just has a funny way of showing it

MLB All-Star FanFest opens its doors

The MLB All-Star FanFest opens to the fans for the first of five days on Fri., July 7, 2017.
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The MLB All-Star FanFest opens to the fans for the first of five days on Fri., July 7, 2017.

Let’s just say Miami is not your typical All-Star Game host city, as Major League Baseball might have discerned by now. We love that you’ve brought your Midsummer Classic here for the very first time. We just have a funny way of showing it.

Plenty of seats at both Monday night’s Home Run Derby and Tuesday’s 88th All-Star Game at Marlins Park still were available entering the weekend. Ticket scalpers (now sanitized as “brokers”) were not realizing the seller’s market imagined.

Not only is the All-Star Game not the biggest event on Miami’s 2017 sports calendar, it might not even be the biggest event this month. That, according to a couple of polls, would be the July 29 Barcelona-Real Madrid soccer match that will fill huge Hard Rock Stadium, with anticipation off the charts and some tickets commanding more than $1,000.

I mean, you’re OK, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw.

But you ain’t Messi and Ronaldo. Feel me?

Don’t blame yourself, baseball. Blame the Marlins.

Charlie Hough’s first fluttering knuckleball ushered in MLB here in 1993, and nearly a quarter-century later, despite a pair of wildly abberant World Series wins, baseball has failed to remotely cut into the Dolphins’ hold on this as a football town, or even challenge Heat basketball for second place.

This season, looking like the Fish’s 14th in a row out of the playoffs, the biggest cheer arose not for one of Giancarlo Stanton’s cannon-shot home runs or for a dramatic walk-off win, but for the news villain-owner Jeffrey Loria finally was selling the club.

(Now, unsurprisingly, even that sale hits snags as various interested potential buyers agree the club isn’t worth the $1.3 billion Loria was asking. Hey, maybe the supposed $70 million in economic impact from hosting the All-Star Game could go toward buying Loria out! Failing that, if estranged Marlins fans who want Loria out marshaled that animus in a GoFundMe campaign, they’d raise the money in about a week.)

I’d love to say the muted excitement for this All-Star Game is spiteful civic punishment by South Florida over the fact the 2000 Midsummer Classic had been awarded to Miami but then was taken away — stolen! — because of the then-Florida Marlins’ perceived instability.

LORIA FACTOR

Instead, it’s just the debilitating malaise of the enthusiasm-killing Loria reign that has left general nonchalance for baseball where passion otherwise might be. That, and the fact the Dolphins open camp in a couple of weeks. As an appetizer to Messi-Ronaldo.

The Marlins actually are quite stable now, which is remarkable considering we are all wondering who the new owner will be, whether there might be another demoralizing fire-sale selloff of talent, and the fact this team usually doesn’t even sellout on Opening Day, making less shocking the late availability of ASG tickets.

Miami has wonderful, die-hard baseball fans, don’t get me wrong. Just not nearly enough of them. That’s why the Fish are 28th of 30 teams in home attendance this season. Bright side: It would be 29th, except so many Japanese faithfully come out each night to watch Ichiro (usually) not play.

We love that the Marlins’ Marcell Ozuna was voted in as a National League outfield starter for Tuesday’s game, and that Stanton made the All-Star team as a reserve, and that Stanton and Justin Bour will represent Miami in Monday’s Home Run Derby.

If only more of us loved them enough to come to the park 81 times a year to watch them play actual games that counted.

I’m being partly tongue in cheek here with the cynical tone.

It is funny to me that the oft-dysfunctional Marlins and this outgoing owner get an All-Star Game. It’s like the Cleveland Browns winning an executive of the year trophy.

Hosting this event is special, though. It is. This will be the 288th All-Star Game played in the Big Four sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL), and only the fifth one to be held in Greater Miami.

NATIONAL STAGE

MLB’s Midsummer Classic — Home Run Derby and All-Star Game capping a week’s activities — is the one thing baseball still has over all the other sports. Even more than the World Series, which arrives overshadowed by the unfurling NFL, the ASG/Derby doubleheader is the one time a year baseball is the National Pastime again, owning the national stage, reveling in all of its glory, flexing its heritage and history.

Miami hosted four World Series games in 1997 including a triumphant Game 7, and hosted three Series games in 2003. Other than that, Tuesday will be the grandest night in franchise history.

Maybe there will be a few empty seats, maybe not. Nevertheless, the All-Star Game in Miami will be a lesson for the Marlins because the ballpark will look and feel very close to what we dreamed for this franchise a quarter-century ago, and what we stubbornly dare still imagine.

A full stadium and passion for baseball everywhere you look.

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