Saturday, March 30, 2019

An Open Letter to Derek Jeter

March 30, 2019

Mr. Derek S. Jeter
Chief Executive Officer
Miami Marlins
501 Marlins Way
Miami, FL 33125

Dear Mr. Jeter,

I write this as someone who has attended Marlins games since the very first one in 1993, and  wants, very much, for you to succeed in making the Marlins a successful, sustainable baseball franchise.  I’m all in with your rebuilding strategy, and look forward to seeing it develop. In the meantime, though, I have some constructive criticism (or “feedback,” in today’s corporate-speak) regarding ballpark operations.

I realize that you feel that reaching the Latin market in general, and the Cuban market in particular, are keys to the success of the Miami Marlins.  I don’t dispute that. What I do take issue with, though, is the way in which you are attempting to reach those markets.  Bilingual slogans and hashtags (#OurColores, #JuntosMiami, Party en el Parque, etc.).  Sixth inning “cafecito.”  Obscenely loud salsa bands walking around the concourse.  All of those things are transparently patronizing and condescending.  How is handing out “cafecitos” to acknowledge Cuban-American fans different from handing out watermelon to acknowledge African-American fans?  Not different at all. Both are patently offensive, shameful and repulsive.

Celebration of heritage should not be about stereotyping. I was born and raised in Colombia, but when I think of the times I’ve been to the ballpark on so-called “Colombian Heritage Night” I cringe with embarrassment.  And I’m the intended target of that awkward spectacle.  And, of course, you also have Cuban Heritage Night, Dominican Heritage Night, Venezuelan Heritage night, etc.  Let’s do away with “Heritage Nights” altogether. Let’s not focus on what makes us different from each other. Let’s instead focus on what makes us the same.  And let’s not forget that not everyone in South Florida is of Latin heritage.  If I’m offended by the incessant pandering, how do you think fans who are not of Latin heritage feel?  Insulted, I’m sure. Excluded as well, no doubt.  

One more thing.  I’m appreciative of the new food options at Marlins Park.  However, I believe it’s far more important to get the basics right than to offer all sorts of alternatives.  Mr. Jeter, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed a Dean Dog at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Have you had the garbage that passes for a hot dog at Marlins Park?  You can offer ceviche, sushi, pulled pork, etc. That’s fine, but before that, have a great hot dog. It’s a baseball game, after all. How can it be that the hot dogs are great at Roger Dean, but lousy at Marlins Park?

Come to think of it, it’s not only the hot dogs.  The baseball experience is better in almost every way at Roger Dean than at Marlins Park.  At Roger Dean, there are no stereotypes, no pandering, no DJs, no salsa bands, no incessant noise.  It’s a classic ballgame experience, enjoyable by everyone, regardless of background or culture. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that the Marlins organization considers Roger Dean attendees serious baseball fans, but Marlins Park attendees rubes that need to be pandered to.  

Mr. Jeter, the potential fans you seek are better than you give them credit for.  They don’t want to go to the ballpark to listen to loud DJs, dance to salsa, drink cafecitos, or see slogans like JuntosMiami, which I cannot believe you don’t realize is, in comical irony, tremendously divisive.      

I hope you take my comments in the positive spirit in which  they are given. My wife, son and I will be there, supporting you, every step of the way.

Go Marlins!


Jack Azout