Over my last ten years as a Marlins fan, I’ve received many valuable gifts at the ballpark. Or at least I would have if I enjoyed weekend games. But since I prefer to kick it at Dolphin on exciting weeknights such as Monday, I can probably count the giveaways on my fingers. And possibly a toe or two.
I’ll just level with you–almost every single token of the Marlins’ appreciation has been a worthless piece of trash. Ugly duffle bags, water bottles that usually get left under my seat, baseball cards that are either smashed in my pocket or soaked in the rain by evenings end…nothing much to write home about (uh, and yet here I sit, writing home about it. Hmmmm).
At first glance it may seem that the Fish just give gifts at random to appease the precious few attendees they’ve scraped together. I discovered this past season, however, that the Marlins strategically plan giveaways around top secret front office codes. Codes that offer a glimpse into the future of the ball club, and that only the most intelligent of Fish fans–namely me—can crack. These subliminal messages are fed to fans all season long to subconciously prepare us for what is to come.
For instance, many fans grumbled and complained when the Marlins gave away life-sized Josh Johnson posters the same weekend it was announced that JJ would miss the remainder of the season. Not me. I knew that the gift was not merely a way for the Fish to unload a bunch of posters that proved worthless in 2007. Just a few innings into the game, my hunch was proven right.
As the rain began to pour over Dolphin for the twelve-billionth time that season, entire rows of people were able to huddle beneath JJ’s massive likeness. Sure, a Dan Uggla poster may have seemed a more fitting choice of giveaway (seeing as he actually played in more than three games during the season), but would his 5’10" frame have given refuge from the storm to a family of eight? I think not.
Not only did team officials accurately predict the weather that night, they also gave us a glimpse into the future of our stellar young starter. As the game ended and thousands of soaked and shredded images of the pitcher lay mangled on the wet stadium seats, J.J.’s fate seemed sealed. A few days later, Josh was visiting Dr. Andrews to have the surgery that will keep him on the DL for the entirety of next season. Coincidence? Doubtful.
Perhaps the most telling promotion of all, though, was the night Marlins fans received a lovely Miguel Cabrera collectable figure. I was fairly excited, as this giveaway would more than make up for the World Series replica ring I lost after hurling it at a drunk Cleveland fan weeks earlier.
I opened the box, took the plastic Miggy from its protective styrofoam, and then watched in horror as our star third baseman’s head promptly FELL OFF, tumbled to the ground and rolled down the giant spiraling walkway to the stadium gates.
I nervously tried to shrug off the incident as merely a fluke. That is, until I glanced a few feet away where a small boy stood weeping brokenheartedly, Miguel’s body in one hand and the all-star’s decapitated head in the other. This was the scene throughout Dolphin Stadium the remainder of the night, and so it came as no shock to me when it was announced the Marlins would look to trade Cabrera this winter.
To the team’s credit, they did try to prepare us.
Collectively, 2007’s giveaways followed one very depressing theme. I can only hope things improve a bit next year, but I’ll tell you this: If I am handed a Dontrelle Willis jigsaw puzzle on opening day, I’m afraid my tenure as a Marlins fan will officially come to an end.