The Marlins held their annual LGBT ‘Pride at the Park’ event last Friday night, June 29, and christened it with a victory over their arch-rival, the New York Mets.
It was an evening which marked the major league debut of Sandy Alcantara, one of the Marlins’ prized prospects. He was the winning pitcher.
It also marked the debut of Pride goer Michael Beachboard, a 27-year-old bartender at the Corner Pub in Wilton Manors. The baseball game was the first major league game he has ever attended.
Beachboard got to see the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida perform the national anthem from center field to start the game.
“It was incredibly inclusive, totally entertaining, and I am so excited to be here,” he said, adding, “I have had so much fun.”
Many more Pride goers had a history of supporting the Marlins. Austin Charles of Hollywood, 30, said, “They are my hometown team. I love them. I have been going to their games since I was a child, from the team’s very first year.”
The Marlins are celebrating their 25th anniversary this season, and have won two world championships, in 1997 and 2003, since their inception. Under new ownership, this year they are in last place in their division, the National League East. Their status did not curb the enthusiasm of gay fans last week.
The ‘Fish,’ as their fans affectionately call the Marlins, first held a gay pride and HIV awareness night in 2002. One of the persons at that first event was back at the park Friday, George Foley. He is a founder of the local gay men’s softball league and an enthusiastic baseball fan.
“I have been to many ballparks over many years,” said the 57-year-old yachting salesman, who plays for the Alibi Angels, the longest sponsored team in the league. “Some years the Marlins have played well. This year they are going with prospects,” Foley advised, explaining their poor results. Still, he recommends the gay pride nights to friends.
He was joined by many, including David Aho, 54, who said he was a “veteran of Pride nights at the park.” The scorekeeper and self-acknowledged “Bench Queen” of the Alibi Angels, Aho said pride nights are “spectacular. You have a wonderful time, everyone treats us great, and the Marlins give us a brand new hat with the team logo in rainbow colors.”
“It’s a very unifying and encouraging night,” added the softball league’s Hall of Fame chairman, Edward ‘Wanda’ Sawyer,60.
“You are with friends, there’s food, alcohol and fun. It’s a celebration of togetherness, showing we are proud of who we are,” he added.
Many of the Pride goers to the party celebrated in the ‘Clevelander’ section, which has its own private swimming pool, together with a comfortable chaise lounge seating section and wait service in centerfield.
“Not sure whether to focus on the food and booze, the boys in the pool or the balls in play,” one participant joked. Whatever he chose, if he was like scores of others who showed for Pride night, he got to see a winning game and had a great time.