Old-timers say goodbye to Marlins ballpark
Florida Marlins old-timers really aren't that old, and the most senior of the seniors, 63-year-old Charlie Hough, hasn't changed that much since he threw the first pitch in franchise history in 1993.
But there are still memories to savor. Hough and about 20 other former Marlins gathered Tuesday to say goodbye to the team's stadium.
The finale is Wednesday before the franchise moves into a new baseball-only ballpark with a retractable roof next year.
''This stadium didn't work for big league baseball,'' said Hough, looking out over a skimpy crowd during the Marlins' game against Washington. ''Now that you've built a stadium designed for baseball fans, I think it's going to be great.''
Other ex-Marlins agreed. Among those on hand were Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Charles Johnson and Alex Fernandez, who played on the 1997 World Series championship team, and Mike Lowell, who played on the 2003 title team.
''It's a sad day in some respects, because we have a lot of fond memories in the stadium,'' said Fernandez, a Miami Beach native. ''But it's a happy day because the franchise is moving into a great, great place.''
The former Marlins could remember many rainy nights and small crowds in the stadium. But the World Series veterans also recalled the place rocking with more than 67,000 fans in October.
''That was a great moment,'' Johnson said. ''And you'll probably never see it again, because a lot of teams are going to smaller stadiums. You'll probably never 70,000 watching a baseball game again.''
The Marlins' new ballpark will have 36,000 seats.
On Tuesday, Hough tore a number off the ceremonial left-field sign counting down the games left in the stadium. Fittingly, rain fell as he unveiled the number 1.
At Wednesday's finale, Hough will throw out the ceremonial first pitch to his old batterymate, Benito Santiago. Hough's first pitch in 1993 was a called strike, and the knuckleballer earned the victory by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers.
''I remember telling Tommy Lasorda he was going to be 0-1,'' Hough said. ''I had lunch with him the other day. I reminded him.
''I still see people who were at that game and show me their programs and stuff. It was pretty neat.''