Kansas City Royals
L: J. Guthrie
W: A. Sanchez
S: J. Benoit
I am home. When people ask me what my “favorite stadium” has been so far I immediately disqualify Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park due to sentimentality. Tiger Stadium will most likely forever be my favorite because it was the stadium I grew up in. CoPa will probably be a close second because it is the park that I saw my first live World Series game in. I will try and stay as objective as possible, but this will be difficult.
As I walked through the gates for the first time since 2007 I was immediately greeted by a rush of memories. After hearing wonderful stories from strangers in stadiums across the country I finally got to experience my own ballpark moment. For those of you who have not listened to the podcast (why have you not listened to the podcast?), there is one question that I ask everyone: What is your favorite memory of being in your home ballpark? With my eyes on the giant Tiger statue sitting outside of the stadium my sense memory kicked in and I was immediately transported to 2006.
It was the bottom of the 9th in the ALCS. My Tigers were taking on the Oakland Athletics. The score was tied 3-3. Magglio Ordóñez stepped to the plate with two outs. The Tigers had not won the pennant since 1984. The Tigers had lost an American League record 119 games just three years earlier. My then marketing manager Chris and I were at the game together sitting along the third base line. Chris and I had differing opinions on Ordóñez. Chris loved the man, I was not his biggest fan. I groaned as Mags stepped up to the plate and looked to my left as Chris smiled and said “bet you $20 he hits a home run”. Before the “-ne” could leave my lips as I said “fine” the crack of the bat rung out and the ball soared into the left field stands. It was the best $20 I ever lost. I have thought about that moment many times over the last seven years, but being back at the scene of the crime was sublime.
But enough about my nonsense, it is time to talk about the present. There are some stadiums that have a dedicated Hall of Fame built somewhere on the concourse. Some simply have memorabilia and art lining the walls depending on what level you are on. In Detroit, there are pillars that honor each decade of Tigers baseball spanning over 100 years. There is a rich baseball history in the Motor City and they make it easy and enjoyable to learn all about it. In addition to the walking museum, there is quite a lot for the kids to do. I may be ready to anoint the AL Central as being the best division for kids. Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City is still the best park I have seen for children under the age of 13, but Progressive Field and Comerica Park are not too far behind.
Most parks have batting cages and speed pitches set up, but I have yet to see a ferris wheel and carousel inside any other stadium. I have gone to a lot of games at Comerica Park, but this was the first time I ever jumped inside of the ferris wheel. I felt like if I tried to ride the carousel I might get some justifiable dirty looks so I sat back and let the kids enjoy that one. The view from the ferris wheel is not the best (you get a brief glimpse of Ford Field next door), but after years of wondering who exactly rides that thing, it was kind of fun.
The game was about to start and I had not yet gotten any food. I hustled to the Big Cat Court and browsed the food options. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Mike Ilitch (owner of the Tigers and Little Ceaser's Pizza), but I am rarely in the mood for pizza at a ball game. I chose to try a 313 burger instead and was happy with my decision. With that out of the way it was time to find my seat, sit back and enjoy another ball game.
After a bumpy start, Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez settled in pitching into the eighth inning allowing just one run on seven hits. The game also included an absolute bomb off the bat of Prince Fielder and an RBI base hit by the reigning, defending AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. I have been to a lot of sporting events in my life. I have seen some amazing athletes play live in stadiums across the country. I have never seen a crowd react to one man the way I see people lose their minds over Miguel Cabrera. As soon as he steps into the on-deck circle there is a buzz that begins to emanate from the stands. I felt it in Baltimore at the beginning of my tour and I felt it again in Detroit. Maybe it is because the greatness we have seen for the past two decades is so tainted. Maybe it is because he seems to be a genuinely good guy. Maybe we as baseball fans just revel in its history just a little more than other sports fans. Whatever the reason, the respect that Miggy commands is surreal. I have been in the stands when Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire or Alex Rodriguez stand at the plate. There have been superstars that have transcended the game, but very few are as universally appreciated as Cabrera. I am not saying that everybody loves him, there are certainly people who hate him for what he has done to their favorite teams. But I have yet to meet anybody who does not understand that we are all watching something special. I almost wish that he was not on my favorite team so people would believe me when I say that regardless of his uniform he is a player that is worthy of the modern media hero worship.
There are some great sight-lines all over the concourse at Comerica Park. Before I entered the stadium I came across the three boys pictured right who were trying to get a peak at batting practice. That may be my favorite picture of this tour. The standing room only sections give a great wide open view to the field. During the playoffs fans will pack the sidewalk three or four people deep outside of CoPa to catch a glimpse of the action on the field. Detroit may be going through a rough patch, but on a Tigers game day the city is alive and well.
The game itself was, of course, quite fun. You can not truly appreciate this Tigers lineup until you see it in person. Up and down the lineup there are All-Stars or future All-Stars. The pitching staff is scary dominant. Watching these guys play live is a treat and I am jealous of the 3 million plus who come out to this park year after year. Sitting in the stands made me miss this stadium and this city more than I ever thought possible. When I drove into San Diego I called my parents and told them I might move there. I think Detroit just knocked San Diego off the top of my list. I love the Detroit Tigers and I adore Comerica Park. Remember when I mentioned that I was going to try and stay objective? That proved to be harder than I thought.
Next up: PNC Park
Game Time Temp: 70
First Pitch Time: 7:08 PM
First Pitch: Jose Vela
National Anthem: Marnell Kenan
Seventh Inning Stretch: Summertime by Will Smith
Total Pitches Thrown: 250
Total Hits: 20
Total Singles: 15
Total Doubles: 4
Total Triples: 0
Total Home Runs: 1
Total Walks: 2
Total Strike Outs: 7
Total Errors: 0
Game Time: 2:24
Attendance: 37,872 (91.8% full)
Home Plate Umpire: John Hirschbeck
Miles Traveled: 40 miles
Time in Car: 1 hour
Sleep Time: 7 hours 20 minutes
Bottles of Water: 4
Food Eaten: Grapes, blueberries
Ballpark Food: 313 burger, ice cream helmet
Scoreboard Cap Game: Under Uhaul #3
Money spent on parking: $20
Money spent on ticket: $60.00
Cost of Program: $5.00
Money spent on food: $15.25
Total money spent on Merchandise: $2700
Total Money spent at stadium: $122.25
Total Money spent today $122.25