MIAMI — The concept seemed like almost a no-brainer for the Marlins’ marketing department: Schedule a noise-making giveaway in June as part of their Super Saturday Concert series that would tie into the World Cup.
But after 11 innings of a 4 1/2-hour game on Saturday, it was hard to find supporters in either clubhouse regarding the miniature vuvuzelas (pictured; The Associated Press) handed out to the first 15,000 fans at Sun Life Stadium.
In fact, after his club’s wild 9-8 victory, Rays manager Joe Maddon said those blowing horns that created a deafening moaning sound at the ballpark all game long “should be banned from Major League Baseball.”
The next morning, he wasn’t softening his stance.
“They’re annoying,” he said. “I mean, there’s cool things and there’s very non-cool things. That’s a non-cool thing. … It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, in particular, was sporting earplugs. So was Rays third-base coach Tom Foley. And so did the umpiring crew.
“I couldn’t really hear myself talk,” Rays right-hander James Shields said.
“When you’re in the game, you don’t hear it, but it was loud on the bench sitting there,” Rays Saturday starter Jeff Niemann added. “I definitely noticed it, for sure.”
The vuvuzelas — made popular by World Cup soccer fans in South Africa — may have also caused confusion, an out and an ejection in one strange play in the bottom of the ninth.
In a 5-5 tie, Marlins reserve infielder Brian Barden led off with a walk. But while he was trotting to first base, Maddon approached home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale and pointed out that the Marlins were batting out of order.
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez pleaded his case before getting thrown out, and afterward said it was Barksdale who “screwed it up.” Perhaps the droning moans of the vuvuzelas that reverberated from the announced crowd of 23,242 caused a miscommunication.
“It could have,” Barksdale said. “It was the most uncomfortable baseball I’ve been a part of in a long time because of that. Whether that had anything to do with it, I don’t know, but it could have. When’s the last time you heard something like that at a baseball game? Never.”
The Marlins disallowed vuvuzelas in their Sunday game because noise-making items are never allowed to be brought into the ballpark.
Here’s how Marlins vice president of marketing Sean Flynn explained the decision to give away vuvuzelas: “The air horns are part of our regular pregame interactive giveaway for Super Saturdays. We try to create either a sound or visual giveaway. … We also looked at the timing and knew this would be in the heart of the World Cup. We knew the vuvuzela would be a pig part of the World Cup in South Africa.”
But the home team wasn’t happy with the giveaway, either.
“This isn’t soccer,” Uggla said. “I know the World Cup is going on, but this is baseball. We don’t want to hear horns or anything like that. We want to hear the crowd cheering. We want to hear the crowd getting behind us, not horns.”
– Alden Gonzalez