Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly walked about midway down the dugout before settling into a spot on the bench and surveying the field at Milwaukee’s Miller Park Friday night.
The ballpark was decked out Floridian style, walls and gates populated by pink flamingoes, palm trees and sea shells as a gesture by the Brewers to make the Marlins feel at home, at least for the next three days, even their “home series” was being played1,500 miles from Miami.
The road-weary Marlins arrived at Miller on Friday for the start of a three-game series that was initially supposed to be played at Marlins Park. Major League Baseball moved the series to the Midwest with South Florida still recovering from the aftereffects of Hurricane Irma.
“It’s not ideal, it’s not what we planned but at the same time, we’re talking about ramifications of a hurricane coming through our home city,” Marlins starter Adam Conley said.
The Marlins lost 10-2.
What was supposed to be a seven-game road trip that began on Sept. 7 in Atlanta was extended by three games. The Marlins will officially be the home team, batting in the bottom halves of innings just like they were in Miami.
“I think after the first inning, the fact we’re going out in the field first will be the only difference,” Mattingly said.
But their worries have eased somewhat compared to the beginning of the trip, when what was then a powerful hurricane was chugging toward South Florida.
Some players, like Conley, brought their families on the trip. Second baseman Dee Gordon, whose family lives in Florida, said the power is out at his home in Miami. But family members have relocated to his home in Orlando, which does have power.
“Grandmother and uncle and Dad were supposed to go to Atlanta before the hurricane was announced,” Gordon said. “But now they’ve stayed home and are making sure they’re getting things taken care of.”
Overall, it appeared that the families and homes of Marlins players, coaches and staff escaped the worst impacts of a storm, especially after the hurricane’s path took it more up the western side of Florida.
Opposing teams have been welcoming on the road. The Braves offered free tickets to Florida residents during last weekend’s series.
In Philadelphia, where the Marlins were swept in a midweek, three-game series, the Phillies offered tickets for the area zoo, aquarium and other activities for kids on the Marlins’ trip.
“Even now, this isn’t [what] anybody planned on doing. But here were are playing a Major League Baseball game in Milwaukee,” Conley said. “It’s been pretty seamless. I’m very thankful.”
The Marlins have struggled on the field, having lost six straight and 16 of their last 18 after the loss Friday night. Gordon’s career-best 17-game hitting streak came to an end.
Gordon has been a bright spot during the stretch with a career-high 17-game hitting streak.
“We haven’t played very well. But it’s been a different trip,” Mattingly said. “It started off being a few games and now it’s turned into a few more. I know that’s tough for families; it’s tough for guys. So that’s different, but it is what it is.”
In Milwaukee, Mattingly has tried to keep the routine as close to a road game as possible, even if they’re the home team. Miami isn’t even wearing their home-white uniforms because they didn’t’ take them on the road trip. The Marlins declined Brewers manager Craig Counsell’s offer to let Miami take early batting practice, as is the custom for home teams.
About as close it might have felt like Marlins Park was a stand of hastily added fake, neon palm trees on the concourse above the center-field wall. A handful of fans wore bright orange Marlins shirts. A Miami highlight reel played on the video board before their starting lineup was announced.
“Certainly, they’ve gotten the worst of this for sure,” Counsell said. “I think if you ask most of them they are happy that the storm wasn’t as bad as predicted. They are making the best of a tough situation.”