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Marlins Buzz Reaches New Heights After Years of Sinking

South Florida's MLB team hit it out of the park and made it to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, only to strike out in Philadelphia. Fans still see a bright future ahead.

Justin Backer

Oct 6, 2023

The Miami Marlins are back and booming.

After a magical regular season that saw the Marlins secure their first playoff spot since 2003, many in south Florida are excited about what the future holds for the team. Despite having their quest for a World Series title squandered on Wednesday after being eliminated in two games to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Wild Card Series, the buzz around the team is the highest it has been in years. 

LoanDepot Park in Miami, home of the Marlins Major League Baseball team. (Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante via Unsplash)

"I got chills,” said 20-year-old Zion Cooper, a younger Marlins fan who had never witnessed his team clinch a playoff spot in his lifetime.

Cooper, like many other young Marlins fans, grew up idolizing Giancarlo Stanton, who played for the team from 2010 to 2017, and was the team’s best player during his Marlins tenure. However, Stanton was traded to the New York Yankees after the 2017 season, a season in which Stanton also won National League MVP. In addition, the Marlins traded other star players such as outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, as well as catcher J.T. Realmuto that same offseason. Their departure can be directly correlated to a massive decrease in interest among Marlins fans in the years that followed.

As the team’s performance on the field suffered, so did their attendance numbers. In 2017, the Marlins average attendance was 20,295, however, in 2018, after the Marlins had traded away many of their household names, their average attendance plummeted to just 10,014, an over 50% drop off from 2017 to 2018.

“They basically tore the entire thing down,” said Peter Dewey, a writer and editor for FanSided, a prominent sports blog. “So naturally, a fanbase is not going to like that.”

This year proved different however, as the 2023 season was the first time since 2017 that the Marlins hosted over one million fans in total attendance. In addition, the Marlins finished the 2023 season with an average attendance of 14,356, an almost 30% increase from the previous season’s mark of just 11,204. This jump was highlighted by a record of 100,001 people in attendance over a three-day span from Aug. 11 to Aug. 13, the most ever in LoanDepot Park history for Marlins home games. Also, television viewership for Bally Sports Florida was up at least 14% from 2022.

A key factor in the Marlins success in 2023 was their ability to win close games, going 33-13 in one-run games this past season. This figure is a massive improvement compared to the 24-40 record they posted in the same situations in 2022, giving the Marlins a reputation for being a clutch, exciting team with a flare for the dramatic.

“When a team wins a bunch of games in a certain way, at first you can be like ‘Oh it’s going to come back to normal,’” Dewey said. “At some point, it becomes the identity of the team, they found a way to win a lot of close games.”

For the Marlins to continue seeing interest rise among the fanbase, consistency will be key, which is something the team has struggled with in the past. Prior to 2023, the Marlins only playoff appearances in full seasons in franchise history came in 1997, and 2003. Ironically, the Marlins won the World Series in both of those seasons, causing an extreme all-or-nothing factor with the team, which for every season since, resulted in nothing.

 “I think if the Marlins show that they can be a consistent team, make the playoffs for a few years, I think the fanbase is gonna grow,” Dewey said. “It’s hard to grow a fanbase when you go into the season with zero expectations.”

Older Marlins fans who remember the successes of the 1997 and 2003 Marlins teams feel encouraged by what they saw from the team this season, giving them hope that one day the Marlins can break through, and once again become World Series champions.

“This was a big step forward,” said 30-year-old Marlins fan Ely Sussman. “It was encouraging to see that maybe in the future they can continue to progress into being a real championship contender.”

For a fanbase that has experienced extreme flashes in the pan in terms of consistency, Marlins fans such as Sussman remain confident that this season will act as a turning point for the franchise despite what many would view as a disappointing ending.

“Even though they ended this season on a down note by getting swept out of the playoffs, you can see the path a little more clearly in terms of them going in a competitive direction,” said Sussman.

In addition to his Marlins fandom, Sussman is also the founder of Fish On First, a media outlet dedicated to Marlins content. According to Sussman, due to the rising popularity of the Marlins in 2023, Fish On First saw the amount of people sign up for its Super Subscriber system nearly double its total from 2022, and saw a considerable rise in engagement across all platforms on social media such as X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok. As the Marlins continued their winning ways, maintaining a winning record throughout most of the 2023 season, Fish On First also continued to thrive.

“That was the difference from previous years, people tune out if there’s nothing else to compete for and the playoffs are out of reach,” said Sussman. “You could feel people being really focused on our coverage, and engaging with us in that way, even at the very end of the year. 

As the Marlins success continued deeper into the 2023 season, the change in atmosphere felt at the stadium was noticeable with each passing night. Tyler Chute, 20, is a long-time Marlins fan who also began working as a ball boy for the team at the start of the 2023 season, described the energy shift at the stadium as the season progressed, and as the team continued to perform well.

“[In the beginning] nobody was there, it's like dead quiet,” said Chute. “It’s eerie, you hear the ball hit the glove, you hear everything. But towards the end of the season, we get a hit, we score a run or something, everybody’s up cheering. It’s…I don’t want to say empowering, but it gets you motivated, and I think it helped the players get motivated.”

Chute added to the notion that the Marlins’ success can largely be attributed to the wider range of support, as the team feeds off of the buzz provided by the fans.

“I think they feel the energy,” said Chute. “When you have people rooting for you instead of against you, it helps.”

Despite a fantastic season coming to a close in Miami, the Marlins put Major League Baseball on notice in 2023, and gave their fans something to cheer about for the first time in decades. After spending years down in the abyss, the Marlins have finally come up for air, providing their fans with not only exciting baseball, but also plenty of optimism for the future.

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