With the pending elimination of a midgame mascot race and efforts to remove the colorful Red Grooms sculpture from Marlins Park, the Miami Marlins braintrust seems bent on removing distinctive entertainment from the game-day experience.
There’s a continuing debate in the baseball world about the role of between-innings entertainment in the game-day experience. Baseball purists argue that games have turned into a series of sideshows, distracting from what should be a rightful emphasis on the game: if folks would only put down their phones and focus on every pitch, there would be no need for extended netting and things like mascot races. Many front-office leaders in the game say that if the emphasis were on the game to the exclusion of between-innings entertainment and an emphasis on socialization, MLB crowds would peak at 10,000 a game. The game could not survive.
And with the Marlins in deep rebuilding mode, it’s highly questionable whether eliminating the mascot race — featuring Bob the Shark, Julio the Octopus, Angel the Stone Crab and Spike the Sea Dragon — is the best choice for a team that will struggle to attract fans to a game. Same with eliminating the colorful Red Grooms sculpture with its dolphins and festive display: yeah, it’s gaudy, but it’s colorful, and the Miami experience is all about color or flash. Not quite sure whether it would work in Seattle or Minneapolis, but’s uniquely suited for the Miami market.
The thing is: no matter what, every MLB game needs to be an experience. We’ve seen multiple MLB teams thrive after upgrading the game-day experience: even Jeter’s old team, the New York Yankees, have embraced the social aspects of the game with Ballpark Passes and new social spaces. (No, we don’t expect to see character races at Yankee Stadium. But 14 of the 30 MLB teams have some sort of character race.) If anything, a team seeking a fresh start after slashing payroll needs to reward fans with some sort of unique experience. Now, it could be the Marlins have the most amazing game experience on tap and are waiting for the season opener to unveil. Not quite sure the Marlins front office has thought through the steps needed to attract fans to a midweek August game with a poor draw in town — but that reality will slip them alongside the head soon enough.
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