Vuvuzela sound to greet Rays in Miami
MIAMI -- Buzzzzz! For one night, the sound of the World Cup is coming to Florida Marlins baseball.
Like it or not.
As a tie-in with World Cup fever in soccer-mad South Florida, when the Marlins play host to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, the first 15,000 fans will receive an air horn -- half the size, but fairly similar to a vuvuzela, the omnipresent noisemaker that's all the rage in South Africa right now.
It's an idea the Marlins have kicked around for months, with the goal being to create a buzz -- so to speak.
"Real loud," said Marlins reliever Brian Sanches, who got a sneak preview of the horn sound earlier this week.
"Real big distraction," predicted Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who says he doesn't know what the sound will be like.
The idea looks to work well for the Marlins on a lot of fronts -- capitalizing on the overwhelming popularity of the World Cup in the multicultural Miami region, plus the fact that the team will offer a postgame concert Saturday with Mergenue stars Sergio Vargas and Milly Quezada.
And anything that might boost attendance, well, that works for the Marlins as well. Florida entered the weekend drawing an average of 16,182 fans at home, the worst in the majors.
"The horns have always been part of soccer, maybe not to the extent they are in South Africa -- and we had no idea that it would take off this big -- but we knew at the World Cup, horns would be in play," said Sean Flynn, the Marlins' vice president of marketing. "So we thought, why not piggyback on some of that buzz?"
Major League Baseball does not have to sign off on giveaways, and the Marlins didn't need any special permission for handing out the noisemakers. Later this season, the team also plans to hand out cowbells, drums, samba whistles, thunder sticks and clappers, so there's a lot more noise to come.
And back on May 29, the team gave away tambourines -- which didn't seem to bother the opposing team's starting pitcher in the least, considering that was the night Philadelphia's Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game.
"I guess it's cool, because it'll kind of give it that World Cup feel," Rodriguez said. "Those ones in the World Cup, they just don't stop. I mean, man, do they choreograph that? It's amazing."
Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't know about the horn giveaway.
Suffice it to say that if he had, the cap with earflaps that he donned during the 2008 World Series might have been packed for this trip.
"I'll bear with it," Maddon said. "I would much prefer that they just went with KC and the Sunshine Band next time."
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wasn't too concerned about the horns, pointing out that "you don't hear much" inside the dugout.
He also said super-noisy ballparks probably weren't a foreign concept for many players, considering that's the norm in Latin America.
"Anybody who's played any kind of winter ball has gotten used to some kind of horns, tambourines, bongos," Gonzalez said. "Come to Puerto Rico. You'll see."
See -- and hear.
Not every other sports venue is so keen on the horn craze.
A fan was asked to leave a New York Yankees game earlier this week for blaring a vuvuzela in a game, and ever-dignified Wimbledon even has issued reminders that the noisemakers won't be allowed for its tournament starting Monday.
Even at the World Cup, the vuvuzelas aren't entirely embraced. The drone of the horns is not popular with broadcasters and some players.
And turns out, Air Horn Night could be a one-time deal for the Marlins. Noisemakers are typically a no-no inside Sun Life Stadium, the home facility of the Miami Dolphins where the baseball team is just a tenant.
"These probably fall outside of the parameters of what somebody can bring back in," Flynn said. "So do it Saturday."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press