Marlins, opponents eager to bid adieu to Sun Life Stadium

Jim Leyland takes a victory lap after the Marlins won the 1997 World Series at Sun Life Stadium. Staff file photo

At its best it was magical for baseball.

… From the grace of DiMaggio, in a dark suit, tossing the ceremonial first pitch, to the triumphant leap of Counsel in Game 7, to the exultation of Pudge taking the hit and holding on to beat the Giants.

Too often there was the hollow echo of one hand clapping.

… From boos for the owner when what remained of the '97 championship team received its rings, to inflatable aliens outnumbering real fans in some sections on Turn the Clock Ahead Night, to water cascading off the upper deck during yet another rain delay.

No wonder everyone associated with Marlins baseball can't wait to turn the clock ahead to Opening Day 2012 in the new ballpark with a retractable roof in Little Havana.

"Aren't we all?" catcher John Buck said of counting the days remaining at Sun Life Stadium, now down to three.

That goes for opponents offering a collective chorus of good riddance.

"Yeah," former Marlin Dan Uggla said before playing his final game with the Braves at Sun Life. "This place will always have a special place in my heart because this is where I started my career, and I've got a lot of great memories here. But I'm sure I'm the only person in this [visitors'] clubhouse that is going to miss it. Teams hate coming in here."

There would be no baseball in South Florida without Joe Robbie-Pro Player-Dolphin-Land Shark-Sun Life Stadium. No two World Series, no-hitters, D-Train or Jim Leyland "I feel good" championship moment.

Robbie built it with the intent of luring an expansion team in an era when multisport stadiums were the norm.

But one thing has been evident from the start. "It's a football stadium. You can't get away from that," Marlins pitcher Clay Hensley said.

That has never been more evident than last week with the field bearing the scars and markings of consecutive days of 'Canes and Dolphins games. Was that a blooper to shallow right field or the 40-yard-line. Careful, don't trip over that leaping dolphin behind second base.

Marlins second baseman Omar Infante committed a rare costly error on a ball that Buck said veered sharply after striking turf marred by football.

Seats oriented toward the football grid rather than home plate are disconcerting for fans. Players have their own reminders they're playing the wrong game for the playground.

"The lights aren't the best. They're angled for football," Buck said. "You definitely see better when we're on the road."

The same night as Infante's error, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones lost a high bouncer by Emilio Bonifacio in the lights in the ninth inning. Instead of a routine play to end the game, the ball eluded Jones, and Infante followed with the winning home run.

Ironically, Jones played more games (121) in Sun Life than any other opposing player and was the Marlins' biggest nemeses here, hitting .294 with 16 homers and 64 RBI.

"When you play baseball in a football stadium, that can happen from time to time," he said afterward. "I won't miss this place a bit."

No one will miss the infernal heat or incessant rain delays — there have been 199 of them totaling 197 hours, 45 minutes.