09/28/11 4:00 PM EST
Former Marlins appreciate team's new stadium
By Christina DeNicola / MLB.com
The nine-time All-Star is back in town for the first time in more than a decade, as the Marlins celebrate their final game before moving to their new ballpark in 2012.
Sheffield and more than 40 former players had the chance to visit the Marlins' future home located in the neighborhood of Little Havana, which is more than 80 percent complete, on Wednesday morning.
"It's been a long time since I came to this stadium, and just to see it coming to an end -- I know football is still here -- but this has always been a football stadium," Sheffield said. "This really isn't a baseball stadium. Just to see them bringing it to closure, going to a new stadium, I'm kind of jealous that it didn't happen when I was here."
On the final day, the University of Miami logo was visible behind second base. Hash marks cut across the entire Sun Life field from both Hurricanes and Dolphins football games.
"For anyone who played for this team it'll hopefully have positive memories," said Mike Lowell, who grew up in Miami and was part of the 2003 World Series team. "For me, it has several positive memories. Looking at it now, September's always tough because that's when football starts. The infield and the outfield gets a little beat up."
The Marlins tried to build a stadium of their own on several occasions since their inaugural season. On July 18, 2009, the organization's dream finally became a reality as it celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony.
Charlie Hough and Benito Santiago, the first-ever battery for the Marlins, threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
"It's the end of an era, and Miami needs a new Marlins, and I think that new stadium's going to do it," Hough said. "It's an experience at the ballpark. It's not like going to the game 30, 40, 50 years ago. It's a family experience, and to be someplace nice, they'll love it."
Many former players, like Kevin Brown, believe the new stadium -- complete with a retractable roof -- will not only make the fans more comfortable, but help the players as well.
Sheffield believes it will rid fans traveling from as far as 50 miles away from any uncertainty about whether the game will be postponed due to weather.
"Just from a player standpoint, they know what they're doing every day," said Brown, who threw the Marlins' second no-hitter in 1997. "Pitchers don't have to worry about getting loose, waiting, back and forth. That means a lot from a pitcher's standpoint, especially. For the everyday players, maybe not as quite as huge an impact, but still it's nice knowing you're going to play and what time you're going to start, and worrying about all those other factors. You can concentrate on playing the game."
Mike Piazza, the longtime Dodgers and Mets catcher who spent eight days in a Marlins uniform, has seen the new ballpark. Piazza and some friends have already purchased season tickets to support the local team.
He still remains in awe by the stadium's white membrane roof and futuristic look.
"It's unique," Piazza said. "It's definitely a modern stadium. I'm sure it's going to have its intimacy, because I saw there's only 38,000 seats, so I think fans are going to enjoy it, and it can be more enjoyable for the fans, the players and for everybody. It's going to be interesting to see how it plays offensively or defensively. I'm excited."
Lowell noted that the stadium can be seen everywhere, whether by the bay or on the highway.
"I think it's going to also bring some commerce to the area, and there's going to be new bars and restaurants opened up there," Piazza said. "I think it's a great situation for the city, and I hope that the people benefit from some of the activity and businesses as well. I think it's great and a win-win all around."
Christina DeNicola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.