Miami Marlins sue longtime season ticket holder; fan swings back

WSVN — The Miami Marlins are taking on the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday, but the team is also battling off the diamond against a few fans. But is the move fair or foul? Here’s investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero.

From the “first” first pitch 23 years ago…

Announcer: “From Charlie Hough.”

To the first World Series win in 1997…

Announcer: “What a celebration here!”

Mickey Axelband has been there through the Marlins’ magical seasons — and the miserable ones.

Mickey Axelband, Marlins fan: “Being a life-long baseball fan, I wanted to be part of the Marlins from the very beginning, so I’ve been a season ticket holder from 1993 until 2012.”

The die-hard fish fan says between tickets, memorabilia and expenses, he’s spent big money on the Marlins.

Mickey Axelband: “Well over a quarter of a million dollars. It is a lot of money.”

But “fan” Mickey is now “defendant” Mickey. He’s being sued for breach of contract by his hometown team. The issue — season tickets in the new Marlins Park.

Mickey Axelband: “They were in the first row of the Dugout Club down the first base line. These are premium seats.”

And they came with a premium price tag: $48,600 dollars for two seats — for two seasons. Mickey signed this two-year agreement for 2012 and 2013 – and says he was sold not just seats, but stadium extras.

Mickey Axelband: “We were promised, along with the good seats, amenities, including having a private club, that would be available for us before and after the game.”

Instead, he says the Dugout Club closed after the 6th inning. The private entrance he used to get into the stadium — shut down.  And premium parking was not available if you showed up late to games. It all added up to a big problem for Mickey.

Mickey Axelband: “They had our money for the first year, felt they had our money for the second year in the sense of a commitment — and basically just said ‘tough.'”

So before the start of season two, Mickey says he notified the Marlins he would not be renewing his tickets. But he had a contract and now the Marlins want him to pay $24,300 dollars for the seats he did not use.

Mickey Axelband: “In the second season, I’m sure that those seats didn’t just sit empty because I didn’t pay for them… I’m sure they resold them.”

Mickey’s attorney has fired back in court — asking a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Daniel Rose, attorney: “For a team to sue a season ticket holder, especially a season ticket holder whose been there from the start, I mean to me, it doesn’t get any lower for a sports franchise.”

But Marlins president David Samson says the team tried to work with Mickey.

David Samson, Marlins President: “We were very flexible with him, and like we’ve done with many people throughout the years in baseball, we’ve tried to find a solution and with him we were just unable to so far.”

Samson says the Marlins even offered to upgrade Mickey’s amenities from the Dugout Club to the Diamond Club.

David Samson: “When you have a contract, you live up to that contract — whatever that contract is. It’s like with players, when a player isn’t playing well, we still pay him the same. When a player is playing better than he’s paid, he still gets paid the same.”

The marlins also told 7News Mickey’s seats for 2013 were not sold and went unused. The next inning in this dispute could play out in a courtroom…

Mickey Axelband: “We would hope it’d be a trial by jury.”

Where this fan will find out if he hits it out of the park — or strikes out. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.

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