Detroit Tigers – May 24

A day after my visit to Comstock Park, MI to watch the West Michigan Whitecaps, I loaded up the car and drove to Detroit, where I’d watch an evening game between the Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays. I’d only been in D-Town once before — last fall, for an NFL game. And, I have to say, I really like this city. Detroit often gets a bad rap, but I like what I saw of it last fall and I liked what I saw of it again this visit.

About a month ago, I booked my Detroit hotel online, and got two nights at the Greektown Casino Hotel. It’s a four-star facility and because its management just wants to get you to town to gamble, the accommodations were dirt cheap. This was great, because not only was it inexpensive, it was also a short walk to Comerica Park. In fact, this was the view out the window of my 29th-floor room:

See Comerica Park in the distance? And that’s Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, beside it.

After spending a couple hours working in my hotel room, I headed out on foot for the stadium. I walked directly past the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility, which is located beside my hotel. It was odd to see a prison in the downtown area of a city. (You’ll have to just take my word for it … I didn’t want to linger and take any photos.)

Soon enough, however, the scenery improved:

This is the left field gate, and I set out to walk around the entire stadium, as I always do. Below is a look down the street between Comerica Park and Ford Field:

(Total lack of people, huh?)

And here are a pair of Tigers banners with Ford Field in the background:

If you’re ever going to Comerica Park, you’ll almost certainly be approached by any number of vendors in the streets around the facility. They give you something (in my case, it was America pins and CDs), then ask you to pay them. I got the impression that it’s no big deal to Detroit residents, who simply ignore the vendors, but newbies may feel like they need to stop and listen. Just keep walking if it’s not your thing.

You’ll have to admit that Comerica Park has one of the coolest main gates in baseball:

Here’s a panorama of the gate:

And there are other tigers everywhere:

Seen enough tigers yet? No?

OK. I’m over it.

Somehow, I managed to lose my pre-purchased Tigers ticket during my trip. Well, it’s not totally lost, but I stuck it somewhere so secure that its location eludes me. Anyway, I got it reprinted:

After mingling around the side gate with a few dozen other fans, I continued my walk around the stadium. Below are a cool tile mosaic; a scary tiger head at the lair-looking Tiger Den; the biggest beer in D-Town; and a sneak peek of BP through the fence. (For the record, that’s a strike!)

Here’s the historic Fox Theater, which is just across a parking lot from the stadium:

And the Hockeytown sports bar:

At 5:30 p.m., the gates opened and I rushed to the right field bleachers to try to get a ball during batting practice. This was the view:

I didn’t get a ball, but enjoyed watching players such as James Shields up close:

As a side note, you’ve gotta love people who beg for balls during BP. I mean, I’ll ask for the odd one, but here was the running commentary from a Tigers fan beside me:

Guy: “Sonnanstine! Sonnanstine! Ball! Ball! Up here!”

Perhaps because the guy was clad in Tigers gear, or perhaps because he was one of a ton of people yelling for a ball, Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine ignored him.

Guy: “Useless $%#& Minor League pitcher! Stupid #$@& last name! No one’s ever heard of you!”

Then, the fan left. And probably had another beer.

Anyway, like I said, BP ended with no balls for me. That was OK, though. When the screens were dragged away, I started to walk around the stadium and take everything in. I was excited to see the team’s wall of fame:

And the statues beyond the left field fence:

At this point, the concourse was still pretty open:

And there were lots of neat historical displays to check out:

If you know ballparks, you know Comerica Park is famous for its Ferris wheel:

And throughout the stadium, there are a ton of neat baseball-related accents:

The Big Cat Court has a merry-go-round and a number of different concession stands. Here’s a panoramic shot:

In the concourse behind third base, there’s a game-used memorabilia stand. You can buy game-used balls, bats, jerseys and hats. You can even buy game-used lineup cards and bases. How great is that? (More on this in my post about the next day’s game.)

The Tigers have a ton of team stores, and many of them contain memorabilia, such as game-used items and autographed balls:

As I made my way around the stadium, I could see fans watching over the park from the nearby Cheli’s Chili Bar, which is owned by longtime Red Wing Chris Chelios:

Remember the front gate? Here’s another view of it:

Eventually, the stadium started to fill up …

… so I took my spot in the right field corner. My ticket cost $15, and I was five rows behind the Tigers bullpen:

A ticket at Rogers Centre in the same location costs $36. Ugh.

From where I was sitting, I had a great view of the Tigers relievers heading to the bullpen around 7 p.m.:

And if I turned, and looked straight up, I had a close-up view of the scoreboard:

Justin Verlander was pitching, so after a couple innings of watching from my seat, I headed over to behind home plate, where I found a quiet place along the wall and watched him deal:

Ushers check your tickets to get into most sections, but if you’re already in the lower section, thanks to a ticket in the outfield, there’s no reason you can’t walk around behind home plate once in a while. This is a panorama from where I was standing:

I had a close (albeit from the back) view of two stars — Miguel Cabrera and B.J. Upton:

And a view of my hotel:

If you’re wondering where I was standing, here are views to my left …

… and right:

After a couple more innings, I went and checked out yet another team shop. This one was two stories:

Then, snuck walked while looking like I belonged into the club section:

Soon, I went up a level and found a great spot to watch the game. This area was the Pepsi Porch, and you can access it with any ticket. (In fact, no one was even checking tickets.) This is a panorama from where I was:

Downtown Detroit is absolutely surreal. There are so many vacant/vandalized buildings that it’s hard to believe. The 30-plus story building below, for example, looked completely empty:

Soon, I went up another level, and here was the view:

I could even see in the Rays first base dugout. See Evan Longoria?

How high did I climb? Well, I made it right up behind the tigers above the stadium gate:

Eventually, I walked around and took a look down into the Big Cat Court:

Soon, the sun was setting over the city, and I snapped a photo:

After watching from waaaay up behind home plate, I went over to the left field corner under the scoreboard. I was so close to the scoreboard that I was looking right up at the tiger on the left side:

My new location, it turned out, was great. When Cabrera jacked a three-run shot, I had a direct line of vision to the water fireworks in center field:

Eventually, I descended a level and kept on walking. I looked out into the parking lot at one point, and learned that if you drive a Ferrari, you can make your own parking space:

In the eighth inning, Alex Avila hit his second dinger of the game, and the Chevrolet Fountain went off again:

The Comerica Park scoreboard is extensive, and my favorite of its features is how it gives situational stats for every batter:

Doing so is proof the Tigers are going the extra mile for their fans. It’s noticed and it’s appreciated.

Avila’s eighth-inning home run proved to be the difference. The two-run blast put the Tigers up 7-6, and despite being outhit and committing four errors, that was the final score. After the game, I took a brief walk around, then headed back to my hotel. I’d be at Comerica Park again in a little more than 13 hours.

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