By Mark Gauert
City & Shore Magazine
After the media scrum parted at Marlins Park, I got to talk briefly with Derek Jeter – who couldn’t have been nicer – for a story I was writing this issue. I didn’t tell him the last time I saw him in a Marlins stadium – when the Marlins were playing his Yankees for the World Series – I was rooting against him. That was then.
We shook hands and I marveled how different his hand felt from what I was expecting. I got to shake boxing legend Evander Holyfield’s hand a few years ago and came away feeling I’d just grabbed a big metal rasp – the shop tool you use to shape and smooth coarse wood. I could feel every cut, callous and contusion he’d ever taken in that hard hand. His shake told a story, without any words.
Jeter’s handshake told a story, too. His hand was smaller than I’d expected from a big-league slugger, and smoother. More the shake you’d expect from a favorite teacher than a baseball legend who’d smacked 3,465 hits, and 260 home runs, in his long career. I imagined the number of signatures and handshakes the Yankees shortstop had granted to fans.
Now, as CEO of the Marlins since September 2017, he is pressing the flesh from the front office.
I’d come to see him in that capacity, leading improvements he hopes will make Marlins Park a “go-to destination for a first-class entertainment experience” this season. That means better food, more activities, more improvements he says he’s gleaned from listening to fans over the past year.
Among them is a redesigned and renovated premium-seat area behind home plate – called The Club presented by DEX Imaging – featuring valet parking, a craft cocktail bar and gourmet food, among other amenities.
“We’re trying to change it and bring much more luxury feel to the environment,” says Michael Finizia, the Marlins’ executive chef, who spent time with Ritz-Carlton before taking on the ballpark. “I’m going to give you a hot dog, but I’m going to give you a Jackman Ranch Florida Wagyu Hot Dog,” he says about the items on his rotating menu at The Club. “I’m going to give you a Cracker Jack Colada, where the rim of the glass is crusted with Cracker Jack and caramel … all sorts of fun things to just really push the bar really high.”
It all sounded tempting – get your ice-cold Cracker Jack-crusted colada and wagyu hot dog, heeeeeah! – but I wondered, would I be violating some tenet of Baseball if I watched baseball in luxury like this?
So I asked Derek Jeter – 14-time All Star, five-time World Series champion, a future Hall of Famer who could sit in hallowed fame anywhere he liked.
“Yeah, you know,” he said, “it all depends on what you like.”
And I started to think about luxury, for this Luxury Issue. How it can change what you like.
I liked driving a Prius, for example, until driving a Lamborghini ruined it for me. I liked a $5 glass of house wine until I sipped a $500 glass of Château Pétrus. And I liked watching baseball from a cheap seat until I sat in a seat more comfortable than anything I have at home, directly behind home plate.
I didn’t tell Derek Jeter I was rooting against him the last time I saw him in a Marlins stadium. But I was rooting for him now.
- Mark Gauert, firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO: Derek Jeter just before Opening Day 2019. (By Mark Gauert)