Thursday, September 21, 2017

Joey's World Tour: Peaches and Creamed (Part II - Mets Put the M.I.A. in Miami)

I feel like they were expecting me, what with the blue and orange welcome signs.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Hello again, everyone.  This is Studious Metsimus roving reporter/culinary expert Joey Beartran with the conclusion of my two-part road trip synopsis.  In Part One, I shared my experience at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, one that was mostly pleasant except for the fact that I had to watch the Braves and several thousand of their fans doing that silly tomahawk chop, not to mention hearing the wrong Lou Monte song at the worst possible time.

But the Mets did thankfully win the series in Atlanta, and once I had taken off from Atlanta to Miami with the rest of my colleagues, it was time for the team to do the same in South Florida.  Instead, the Mets became victims of the worst massacre in Miami since the final scene of "Scarface".

Prior to entering the ballpark, we decided to pay our respects to the late Jose Fernandez, who tragically passed away last September in a boating accident off the southern tip of Miami Beach.  A tribute to the former Marlins ace can be found near the home plate entrance, which is now covered with messages from fans to the late pitcher.

R.I.P. Jose Fernandez (EL/SM)

Soon after paying our respects, we walked around the ballpark to see if we could find statues of legendary Marlins players such as Jeff Conine and Luis Castillo, but much to our surprise, there were none to be found.  After suffering through that disappointment for about five seconds, we made the decision to go inside the fully air-conditioned stadium to escape the heat and humidity.  (I have fur and wear a long sleeve Mets hoodie all the time.  Imagine how hot it gets for me!)

Our seats for the first game of the series were located directly behind home plate, just 14 rows up from the field.  (And they were just $12 each on StubHub.  I think we found the one team whose fans want to get rid of their tickets even more than Mets fans do.)  We were so close to the Mets dugout that I probably could have conducted an in-game interview with Jose Reyes.  But of course, Terry Collins wasn't having any of that.

Come on, Terry!  I came all the way down from New York for this!  (EL/SM)

Since we were in the airport hangar known as Marlins Park, we had to get photos of the Marlins' equivalent of the Mets' Home Run Apple.  Rumor has it that soon-to-be Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter wants to get rid of the eyesore in center field, even if Miami-Dade County won't allow Jeter to DISRE2PECT the sculptor by having it removed.  So I figured I might as well pose behind it while it's still there.

The ugliness of this sculpture foreshadowed the Mets' play in this series.  (EL/SM)

The starting pitcher for the Mets in the series opener was Matt Harvey.  Harvey was never good against the Marlins BEFORE he began his descent into pitching purgatory.  Now that he's a shadow of his former Dark Knight self, a meeting with the Marlins was probably the last thing he needed.

Harvey allowed seven runs and a career-high 12 hits in four-plus innings against Miami.  It was the fifth time in his career that Harvey allowed at least ten hits in a game, but it was the third time he had done it against the Marlins.  Needless to say, Harvey's outing caused the floodgates to open, as Miami pounded out 19 hits en route to a 13-1 thrashing of the Mets.  Coupled with the meltdown of former Marlin A.J. Ramos in the second game and the 9-2 homerfest against the bullpen in the series finale, the Mets were outscored by Miami in the series, 27-7.  Even the Jets wouldn't have lost to the Dolphins by that score.  (Okay, maybe they would have...)

A photo my colleague took at the end of the first game pretty much sums up all you need to know about the series.

The Mets stink.  No hashtag required.  (EL/SM)

So rather than talk more about the games themselves, I'd rather take off my roving reporter hoodie and put on my culinary expert one.  At least that way you'll know what to eat at Marlins Park the next time you go there to see the Mets suffer another humiliating defeat in front of a handful of Marlins fans and 35,000 empty seats.

To satisfy the growing Jewish community in South Florida, the Marlins have a Kosher Korner.  The Mexican community has also grown in Miami, and to appease to those who crave Mexican food at the ballpark, there's a Miami Mex stand that specializes in tacos, nachos and churros.  But most ballparks now serve Kosher and Mexican foods.  The one thing Miami had that I had never seen at any major league venue was found at the Goya Latin Café.  Feast your eyes on this gastronomical gem.

It's... it's... what exactly is that?  (EL/SM)

In addition to serving empanadas, croquettes, yucca fries and Cuban sandwiches at the Goya Latin Café, the Marlins have a delicacy they could only call "Bacon Wrapped Plantain".  Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of bacon-wrapped anything because the bacon has to be soggy in order to wrap around the food it's supposed to cover and I prefer my bacon crispy.  But this delightful dish (minus an actual dish) was phenomenal.  It was sweet.  It was salty.  It was succulent.  It was sublime.  It was every positive "S" word you can think of.  And before long, it was in my belly.

The bacon-wrapped plantain was exactly what I needed to help me forget what was happening at Harveypalooza.  Of course, some of my colleagues decided to take the liquid approach to help them cope with the carnage on the field.

Frozen mango and strawberry Lime-A-Ritas were just what cousins Les Gomez and Ballapeño ordered.  (EL/SM)

Once I satisfied my stomach and Ballapeño and Cousin Les destroyed their livers, I had to see the one other aspect of Marlins Park that was unique among all the major league stadiums.  If you've seen as many games on TV broadcast from Marlins Park as I have, then I'm sure you've seen the Bobblehead Museum.

I was quite surprised to discover the museum was not located in its own separate room.  Rather, it's located right on the concourse behind home plate, roped off so that people can't get at the large case holding the bobbleheads.  There were dozens of bobbleheads of current and former Mets players, listed alphabetically (mostly), as well as a bobblehead of late, great Mets broadcasters Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner.  Mr. Met and the Phillie Phanatic were also found on the display, with the Phanatic keeping a close watch on his New York counterpart.

I wouldn't trust the Phillie Phanatic with that bat in his hands and that look in his eyes.  Just sayin'.  (EL/SM)

There was also one interesting bobblehead on display in the museum.  It was one of Nolan Ryan as a member of the Texas Rangers.  Perhaps it was the Exorcist bobblehead version of Ryan.  Or maybe Robin Ventura took his revenge on the bobblehead for the atomic noogie Ryan gave him on the mound in 1993.

Why try to describe it?  Here, take a look for yourself.

Nolan Ryan was so good, he could strike you out without even looking at you.  (EL/SM)

So what's my review of Marlins Park?  To be honest with you, it was better than I expected.  (Insert your shocked reaction here.)  The food was unique and catered to the people who live in the area.  The Bobblehead Museum was one-of-a-kind and could capture your attention for several innings if you allowed it to.  The Home Run sculpture, although an obvious monstrosity in center field, has gotten Floridians to disagree with Derek Jeter on something, so that makes the sculpture worth it.

However, unlike the area around SunTrust Park in Atlanta, there isn't really much to do around Marlins Park.  It's either go to the game or go home.  Which is pretty much what the current environment around Citi Field is like.  Maybe that's why I liked Marlins Park as much as I did; because it made me feel like I was home.

Which is probably where the Mets should have stayed if they wanted to avoid being creamed by Miami after having a peach of a time in Atlanta.

For Studious Metsimus, I'm Joey Beartran.  Hope you can join me on the next leg of my baseball stadium world tour, wherever the road takes me.

If the Mets go M.I.A. the next time I see them on the road. I'll just stay in my comfortable hotel bed instead.  (EL/SM)

For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado
World Tour Stop #16: Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame)
World Tour Stop #17: Detroit
World Tour Stop #18: Atlanta


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