10/09/2003 11:20 AM ET
Pro Player to be packed for Game 3
Marlins looking forward to home-field advantage
MIAMI -- Game 4 of the Division Series at Pro Player Stadium featured 65,464 energized fans and it had the feel of a college football game.
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
"It was really loud," reliever Braden Looper said. "It was like a Miami-Florida State game.
"I can't wait to see what Pro Player Stadium looks like this weekend. It was deafening against the Giants."
Going home definitely provided the Marlins an emotional lift last weekend when they beat the Giants in two-straight nail-biters, winning the Division Series 3-1 and setting up the League Championship Series showdown with the Cubs.
In the LCS, the Marlins gained a split at jam-packed Wrigley Field, and now hope for similar magic at home for Game 3 Friday night. The next three games of this best-of-seven series are in the dual football/baseball stadium in Miami.
All three games have sold in excess of 62,000 seats. Crowds of up to 67,000 can be accommodated. But with a larger media contingent for the LCS, capacity could be set for under the 65,464 that were on hand to watch the Marlins edge the Giants, 7-6, last Saturday.
For so long, Pro Player Stadium has been a sleeping giant, playing host to crowds of less than 10,000. Now, with the Marlins eyeing the World Series, interest and attendance has dramatically increased.
The large, enclosed stadium is ideally suited for football, and some of its most memorable moments are three Super Bowls and a couple of bowl games that decided the national championship.
In the 1997 World Series, a record 67,204 witnessed the Marlins edge the Indians, 3-2, in an 11-inning Game 7.
The place was rocking that night.
More wild enthusiasm is expected this weekend as the Marlins look to reach the World Series for the second time in their 11 seasons and the Cubs hope to eclipse a 95-year drought without a title.
As electric as Wrigley Field was in Games 1 and 2 with 39,000, Pro Player Stadium could be twice as noisy.
How the game is played also promises to be much different.
Spacious Pro Player Stadium has 385-foot power alleys and dead center is 434 feet.
The first two games in Chicago featured both teams combining for 32 runs on 50 hits with 13 home runs, 11 doubles and four triples.
"We saw a lot of home runs here," reliever Chad Fox said. "I think a lot of those home runs wouldn't have made our warning track. Our fans get so much behind it. At home, we get a sense the fans are with us, riding it with every pitch. We like that feeling."
From a performance standpoint, the Marlins are a different team at home. During the regular season they were 53-28 at Pro Player Stadium, compared to 38-43 on the road.
In the postseason, they are 2-0.
"A lot of the home runs in here, don't go out at Pro Player," first baseman Derrek Lee said. "It's not going to be as much of an offensive series at our park. We play well at home. We feel it's a big advantage for us. We're used to it. We know how to play there. There is going to be a big crowd and we feel it's to our advantage."
When the Marlins put together this year's roster, they did so with the stadium's dimensions in mind.
Speedy center fielder Juan Pierre was acquired for power-hitting Preston Wilson, who frequently became frustrated trying to hit home runs to center and right-center in Miami.
Pierre and Luis Castillo provide the Marlins with the fastest one-two leadoff combination in the league.
At home, Pierre hit .318 and scored 58 runs, while Castillo's average was .326 with 50 runs.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez, third in the lineup, had a .317 average with 45 RBIs at Pro Player.
Lee, who has power to center and right-center, is one of the few Marlins who was more productive on the road. At home, the rangy first baseman belted 11 of his 31 home runs and his average was .242. Away, Lee is a .297 hitter with 49 RBIs.
"You'd have liked to get two in Chicago," Lee said. "But realistically, you have to be happy with a split. You go into their park and get one. Now, we're going to our park for three where we are a real confident team. We feel we are in a good situation. I think we stole home-field advantage."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.