Awesome, baby: Vitale visits Marlins Park

Awesome, baby: Vitale visits Marlins Park

Awesome, baby: Vitale visits Marlins Park
MIAMI -- ESPN basketball analyst and avid baseball fan Dick Vitale made an appearance at Marlins Park on Friday before Miami's series opener with Toronto.

Vitale, a noted Rays fan and season-ticket holder, was in town for an engagement this weekend at the Fountainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach for the V Foundation, and he decided to stop in and check out the Marlins' new digs. Vitale called the new ballpark "beautiful" and "gorgeous," and he expressed hope that the Rays will soon be getting a new home of their own.

"I hope they [get a new stadium]," Vitale said. "They need one badly."

While Vitale considers himself a baseball fanatic, he also shared his thoughts on one of Miami's other teams -- the Heat, which won the NBA championship Thursday night. It was Miami's second title, and it came six years after the team's first championship in 2006, much like the Marlins' two World Series titles did in 1997 and 2003.

"LeBron [James] was out of this world," said Vitale, who has been an analyst for ESPN since 1979. "He played with a chip on his shoulder. He played with unbelievable passion, pride. The kid is phenomenal. He's as versatile a player as you will ever see put a uniform on."

Vitale said he has never seen an athlete under more pressure and more heavily scrutinized than James, who famously joined the Heat via free agency two years ago following seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also commended Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who took a lot of criticism before Miami hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy Thursday, as well as owner Micky Arison and team president Pat Riley, who was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame with Vitale in 2008.

"Pat Riley's an architect," Vitale said, noting Riley's eight total championships as a player, coach and executive. "He's a terrific guy, but when you combine it with the talent level they brought in, it's unbelievable."