It won’t get any better than the World Baseball Classic for Giancarlo Stanton this season.
There won’t be anything to match the excitement and importance of games he played for the United States in his Marlins Park home.
Nothing will come close.
The place figures to be a ghost town on most Miami dates in the wake of the latest franchise reconstruction, which left Stanton – a slugger of a right fielder – as the Marlins’ only drawing card.
Which is why Stanton basked in the excitement this week as the U.S. performed in front of crowds of 32,872 (during a win against Puerto Rico) and then 34,366 (during a loss to the Dominican Republic) and then 19,762 (during an elimination loss to Puerto Rico).
It was one raucous environment after another.
They were as much festivals as baseball games, contested as they were against a backdrop of an almost-constant buzz of celebratory noise from the Dominican and Puerto Rican fans.
“Surprised? No,” said Stanton, “it’s an international event. People bring flags and noisemakers for a reason. It’s a fun crowd to play in front of.”
There will be precious little of that when the Marlins are the, um, entertainment. It’ll be the sound of relative quiet.
To be sure, the WBC is center stage for passionate fans cheering players representing a homeland. Its appeal is unique.
“It’s a different feeling,” said Marlins President David Samson. “It has nothing to do with the Marlins (or) the (low) payroll. You can have the biggest game – a pennant-clinching game here – and it will not have this sort of national spirit that exists during the World Baseball Classic. ”
OK, but the juxtaposition of having part of the WBC tournament played in the digs housing the moribund Marlins is particularly stark.
Samson knows, and admitted, that the Marlins almost certainly won’t attract a gathering of 30,000-plus fans even for their home opener against Atlanta on April 8. And he must know attendance will be an embarrassment all season unless Miami pulls off a monumental surprise by somehow being competitive enough to keep from losing a whole bunch more often than it wins.
Or, as Stanton put it: “I just came from playing in front of 800 to 1,500 fans in Jupiter.”
He was referring to spring-training games at Roger Dean Stadium, but that’s just a precursor of what’s to come. The Marlins will be lonesome souls during the regular season, too.
How does a guy find any semblance of the kind of motivation produced by a vibrant stadium?
“You go out and play for whoever shows up,” Stanton said.
Stanton, a 23-year-old emerging star still playing on the cheap, is a terrific commodity. But it doesn’t appear that the Marlins have anything worthwhile with which to complement him.
That’s why Samson made it a point to praise the venue where the Marlins soon will play their second season after having vacated Sun Life Stadium.
“The World Baseball Classic was not going back to Sun Life,” Samson said. “Zero chance. If we submitted a bid to host at Sun Life, we would not have hosted. The World Baseball Classic was (made for) this building.”
He made a valid point.
But the novelty of the site already has worn off when it comes to the Marlins, who simply won’t generate the fan enthusiasm that is an underpinning of WBC games.
Stanton carries a heavy load as Miami’s solo headliner.
Let’s just say he won’t be batting behind Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer in the Marlins lineup as he did Thursday night for the U.S. against the Dominicans.
“There are no holes,” Stanton said.
The World Baseball Classic has been a blast for Stanton, but a long and probably unrewarding trek awaits him thereafter.