The prevailing memory I have of the first major league baseball game I ever went to—a Sox game at Fenway in '94 or '95—is that our seats, which were not good seats at all, were in front of Boston's self-proclaimed "ex-wives club." This was exactly what it sounds like: a group of women who had formerly been married to Red Sox players, and were now divorced from Red Sox players, sat together and got drunk at spring Red Sox games.
Other kids, I assume, have better memories of their first ballgame. There was a giant apple at Shea Stadium (now reincarnated at Citi Field), a man sliding into a stein of beer at Miller Park, and an exploding scoreboard at Comiskey. What if Fenway had something to catch my attention? What if the Red Sox had installed a giant, light-up slot machine behind center field, and it had lit up like a mechanical firework whenever Mo Vaughn hit one deep? Would that have stayed with me, instead of the ex-wives in the cheap seats?
Unanswerable questions, these. But when I saw the Florida/Miami Marlins' new "spectacular signature home run feature," designed by New York artist Red Grooms, I thought of those boozy ex-wives. If there is one thing that might overshadow a 6-year-old's impression of boozy ex-wives at the ballpark, it is probably a giant pinball-style machine that moves mechanical, screeching marlins through the air.
So yes, this is gaudy. Of course it is. It's in Miami. It will likely be the kitschiest feature at the Marlins' new kitschpark, beating out even the fish tanks behind home plate and the new neon team logo. It has already been called "insanely ugly" and the "placenta" from a Carnival-Las Vegas lovechild, and it is possible that it will give multiple retirees their first seizure when/if it debuts next spring.
But Grooms' design is unlike Miller Park's new "Splash Zone," or the RideNow Powersports Pool at Chase Field. It is, first of all, art (it was commissioned by Miami-Dade's Art in Public Places program)—and a very Miami kind of art, at that—and it does, more importantly, actually teach kids about baseball by lighting up every time there's a home run. Look at that thing! It's going to blow every kid's mind.