Who loves entering contests? Well, I know I sure do.
So, last month, when the Hilton Garden Inn Detroit Downtown held a Twitter contest, I was all in. All you had to do was submit a photo that you’d taken of the hotel, and the winner would have his or her photo used as the hotel’s new Twitter header shot. Pretty easy, right?
If you remember reading about my visit to the Motor City last June, you might recall that I stayed in this hotel and loved it. Don’t remember? Here are two posts to jog your memory:
In any case, the hotel was awesome — a great downtown location within walking distance to Comerica Park, huge guest rooms, super-friendly staff and a whole lot of other perks. If you’re headed to Detroit to see the Tigers, I absolutely recommend staying at this hotel. (And while you’re at it, give the hotel a follow on Twitter.) Anyway, since I took a bunch of photos inside and outside the hotel last June, I figured I’d submit a couple and keep my fingers crossed.
I sent in this shot of my room:
And this one of the front of the hotel:
And, whaddya know? The hotel tweeted at me earlier today to say I’d been chosen as the winner:
I was pretty excited, as you might have guessed, and even more thrilled when I checked the hotel’s Twitter page and saw my photo as the top banner image. Check it out!
Additionally, I just checked out the hotel’s Facebook page and saw that my two photos are being used as the profile picture and the header picture. Here’s a screen capture:
Hmm — all this Detroit talk makes me think I should visit again this season!
The first day of my trip to Detroit lasted about 21 hours from the time I got up till the time my head hit the pillow, and it was absolutely awesome. Although the rainy weather was a brief concern on June 4, things were looking a lot brighter when I slid back the drapes of my sixth-floor room at the Hilton Garden Inn Detroit Downtown to see this view on the morning of June 5:
As you can see, not a cloud in the sky ahead of the afternoon game between the Tigers and Blue Jays at Comerica Park. The game was set for 1 p.m., when meant the gates would open at 11 a.m. It was a Max Scherzer Cy Young Award bobblehead giveaway day, too, so I wanted to get to the ballpark well in advance to assure I’d be at the head of the line like the day before.
Until that time, I hung out in my great hotel room, did some writing and watched SportsCenter. As I said in my previous post, this is a great hotel for baseball fans visiting Detroit. Not only is it close to Comerica Park, but it’s within a short walk of a ton of restaurants, entertainment choices (the Greektown Casino is just a few steps away) and more. The hotel also has free Internet, two in-house restaurants, an indoor pool and fitness center and earned a 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. I know this is the hotel I’ll choose next time I visit the Motor City, and you’ll be pleased if you make that choice, too.
When it came time to make the two-block walk to Comerica, I first wanted to get a picture of the outside of my hotel. In doing so, I briefly lived the life of a rebel by standing here …
… before taking this shot to show the hotel from the street:
Surprisingly, when I got to Comerica Park about 10 a.m., there were virtually no fans in sight. I mean, there were a few people buying tickets and taking photos and such, but the gates were mostly sparse:
I figured there was no point in standing in the non-existent line for an hour, so I took a short walk to a great memorabilia shop just a few steps from the park. The shop in question is next door to Cheli’s Chili Bar, which is roughly at the corner of East Adams and Witherell streets. If you plan to buy Tigers memorabilia, I highly recommend this spot — everything is a good chunk of change cheaper than the team shops at the ballpark.
After browsing for about 15 minutes, I headed back toward the “big tiger statue” gate, pausing briefly to snap this photo of myself:
See how I’m wearing one of my shirts with my website’s logo? Just a few minutes later, as I stood in line a few people back from the gate, a college student in front of me said, “Excuse me, but are you from The Ballpark Guide?” I told him I was, and he said he discovered the site the night before while searching for Comerica Park autograph tips. He said he browsed the site (and my blog, I think) for a couple hours! I was thrilled to meet someone who’s used the site, as it’s nice hearing firsthand how people benefit from the information I provide, given the countless hours I put into everything.
As we chatted, the lines behind us quickly began to grow, and it wasn’t long before the scene looked like this:
When the gates opened, I grabbed my bobblehead and hustled down to field level to check out the scene. I had a sneaking suspicion that despite it being a day game, the teams would be hitting because they’d missed BP yesterday. Turns out, I was right. And, like a day earlier, I was inside the park a few minutes early. Check out the time on the bottom of the video board:
(I only mention the time because gate attendants are normally such huge sticklers for waiting until exactly the specified time to let people in.)
The Tigers were still hitting, and while I would’ve been happy to snag a ball, I wasn’t going to fight too hard for one. I went to the right field stands and just enjoyed the spectacular view, while also taking various photos of players when they were close to me. Here’s the aforementioned Scherzer, for example:
If you followed my blog back in 2011, you might recall that I got his autograph during my visit to Comerica Park.
The Tigers players weren’t the only ones shagging balls during BP. Here are the kids of Joba Chamberlain and Victor Martinez:
During Detroit’s BP, I watched jays reliever Sergio Santos throw a long-toss and bullpen session, and then watched starter Drew Hutchison do the same. On his way back across the field to Toronto’s dugout, he walked close to me and I got this photo:
While I waited for the Jays to start hitting, I quickly removed my bobblehead from its package and snapped this photo. Usually, I photograph stadium giveaway items at home, but I thought this backdrop would look cool:
And, yes, if you’re wondering, the bobblehead accurately reflects Scherzer’s heterochromia iridum.
Because I wasn’t bent on getting a BP ball, I decided to skip Toronto’s session and get wandering around the park. My first stop was the Jungle section …
… followed by the New Amsterdam 416 Club. The flames in the foreground weren’t lit yet, but here’s proof to the story that Babe Ruth loved his alcohol:
After a couple visits to the park’s team shops, including a walk through the two-level shop…
… I was forced to make a pivotal decision that would shape the remainder of my ballpark visit. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly; as Spider-Man said, with great power comes great responsibility.
I decided to make the pledge to be the designated driver for the day:
I kid about it, but this is a great program that more teams should do. You sign up and commit to be a DD, and you get a voucher for a free soda, which is awesome, given the price of drinks at the ballpark. Anyone want to chime in to say if their home park does this? I know Cleveland does it, and Toronto does a classic Toronto version — you sign up and get entered in a draw to win a prize. No free drink, though. Sorry ’bout that.
With my voucher in hand, I headed back to the Big Cat Court to look for a hot dog for what amounted to my breakfast. Turns out there’s a perfect breakfast-themed hot dog, although its name would indicate the opposite. The Late Night hot dog is topped with shredded cheese, bacon bits and a fried egg, and was just what the doctor ordered for me … not a real doctor, though. No real doctor would endorse this bad boy:
Like yesterday, I climbed to the upper deck to eat the hot dog. Unlike yesterday, though, this one wasn’t as tough to eat as the Poutine Dog. The Late Night dog was delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of eggs, but this egg was cooked perfectly and the cheese and bacon came in just the right amounts. And the dog was good and snappy. The breakfast of champions, especially when washed down with my free soda.
After devouring my “breakfast,” I moved to the seats behind home plate, but still in the upper deck, to take a series of photos that would become this panorama. As always, you can click it to make it bigger:
My next mission was to head back down to the main concourse to do something strictly for the story. If you know much about Comerica Park, you’ll know the carousel in the Big Cat Court isn’t the only amusement park-style ride. There’s also a baseball-themed Ferris wheel, and that’s where I soon found myself. Rides cost $2, and as I stood in line waiting my turn to board, I had a horrible realization: I absolutely can’t handle amusement park rides.
Now, I know a Ferris wheel is pretty mild, but I’ve incorrectly assumed that certain rides would be safe in the past, only to lose my lunch. In fact, I thought of my best childhood friend, Lennie, on whom I’ve barfed multiple times. If he’s reading this now, I know he’s thinking, “Oh no, here it comes again.” The only issue was that he wasn’t with me to barf on, so I’d have to share my breakfast with a stranger. I started to feel confident in the fact that the wheel seemed mild, but then realized all that was in my stomach was a soda and a hot dog with a fried egg, cheese and bacon. And, even as I watched the wheel turn at about 0.001 MPH, I thought, “This is trouble.”
No turning back now, though, and when a father and two his two young sons joined me in the car, I thought, “You poor, poor people don’t know what you’re in for.”
As we set off, though, I didn’t feel myself turning green. In fact, after one full revolution, I knew things would be thankfully be OK, and I snapped some photos of the world outside. Here we are well above street level …
… and here’s a look across to the other cars on the wheel:
The ride was great, and I definitely recommend checking it out. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot if you don’t have kids. I pulled off the shadiest move possible — a solo guy on a kids’ ride — so there’s nothing for you to worry about.
After mentally kissing the ground once I stopped off the ride, I hustled down to field level in time for the first pitch, where I took this photo of Justin Verlander dealing:
I spent the remainder of the inning here, getting photos like this one of Jose Reyes advancing to third on a Jose Bautista single:
And Adam Lind fouling off a pitch:
The weather was absolutely perfect — hot, but perfect. I decided to grab one of my favorite ballpark refreshments, a frozen lemonade, and climb to the upper deck to watch a few innings:
I spent five innings in this spot, which was as close to the video board as you could get:
This spot gave me a great vantage point for the back-to-back home runs hit by Juan Francisco and Brett Lawrie in the sixth inning, and once that inning wrapped up, I went back to the 100 Level cross-aisle for a few more action shots, like this one of Melky Cabrera taking a hack:
With just the eighth and ninth innings remaining at this point, I ventured up to the one remaining area I hadn’t been — the upper deck in right field. Here, I had this spectacular view:
Toronto beat Detroit 7-3, completing a three-game sweep of the American League Central leaders. I was sad to finally leave Comerica Park, but looking forward to getting back to my hotel and relaxing before the eight-hour drive home the next day. First, I stopped at the Five Guys Burgers and Fries just a short walk from the Hilton Garden Inn to grab dinner, and then was back in my room for the evening to soon watch the sun set over the city:
Because I showed you the nighttime view from my window in panorama form at the end of my previous blog post, here are a couple different photos. This is the back of the video board at night …
… and here’s the gate I could see from the hotel. I think the concrete tigers are asleep:
So, what’s next for me? Well, I don’t have any plans completely solidified. My work schedule has been crazy but I’ll definitely be traveling again this summer. I’m eyeing up a couple small trips in July and a longer one in August, and hope to have details about at least the July outings soon. I’ve also got a big announcement about a project I’m working on very soon, so keep your eyes open for that.
Although it’s my mission to visit as many ballparks across the major leagues and minor leagues as possible as I continue to build my website, there are times I can’t resist making a return visit to one of my favorite places. I’ve been to 53 different ballparks since 2010, but ever since I saw a pair of games at Detroit’s Comerica Park in 2011, I’ve been itching to get back. You can read about those visits here and here. Fortunately, I had a chance last week to make a whirlwind trip to the Motor City for a pair of Tigers games.
My day began shortly after 4 a.m. and I was on the road just after 5 a.m. for the eight-hour drive to Detroit. To cross into the U.S., I’ve often taken the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ont., with Detroit. It was drizzling and gray for the latter half of my drive on this trip, so I decided to use the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, located just a short distance west of the bridge. After crossing through customs, I entered the tunnel, which gives the illusion that you’re in a different dimension. This picture isn’t Photoshopped or anything, either. This is actually how it looks down there:
When I emerged from the tunnel in downtown Detroit, I had just a few blocks to drive to reach my hotel. I booked two nights at the Hilton Garden Inn Detroit Downtown for a few reasons. I’ve stayed at numerous Hilton Garden Inn locations over my years of traveling for The Ballpark Guide and have consistently had positive experiences. This particular location is one of the top-ranked Detroit hotels on TripAdvisor and its location is ideal. It’s just two blocks from Comerica Park, which you can’t beat. I often love staying downtown when I’m visiting a downtown park. You can’t beat leaving your car at the hotel, walking through the city to check out the sights and then being back in your hotel room after the game when other fans are sitting in traffic.
The Hilton Garden Inn Detroit Downtown has valet parking, so you don’t have to fuss with finding overnight parking in the area. Once I left my car, I checked in at 3 p.m. with the help of one of the friendliest front desk clerks I’d ever met, who presented me with a gift bag as she gave me my room keys. I’m always excited to get up to my room to check out not only the amenities, but also the view, and both delivered big time. Here’s a look at the room:
I’ll have some more details on my room in my next blog post, but you can see that it looks perfect — king-sized bed, desk, huge TV and more. And as for the view, that was perfect, too:
The large, tan/gray building in the center of the picture is the Detroit Athletic Club, but you can see Comerica Park to the left and right of the club. To the right, you’ll see some of the upper-deck seats and the rear of the scoreboard (complete with the enormous tiger on top) and to the left of the club, if you look carefully, you can see more tiger statues just beside the red-brick building. (This is how much of a baseball nerd I am — analyzing the baseball-centric view out my window.)
Time to check out the gift bag I received upon check in:
It contained a card welcoming me to the hotel and a variety of tasty snacks that I enjoyed in short order. I still had some time to kill before heading down for the game, so I enjoyed standing at the window and taking in the various sights, many of which I recognized from my visit to Detroit in 2011. Here’s a view, for example, of the legendary Fox Theatre and, to the bottom right of the image, you can see one of Comerica Park’s distinctive gates:
At about 4 p.m., I loaded my backpack and set out for the short walk to the ballpark. This is the view from the street right outside the hotel’s entrance:
Football fans will recognize Ford Field on the right, which is home of the NFL’s Lions. Comerica Park is directly across the street, but just out of sight in this shot. Within just a couple minutes, I was standing on the sidewalk in front of Ford Field with this view of the rear of Comerica Park’s video board:
Despite the rain, I was pretty pumped to be once again seeing the Tigers in person. This time, however, I had even more reason to celebrate — the Tigers, who are my second-favorite team, were hosting the Blue Jays, who are my favorite team. I’ve seen the Jays several dozen times in Toronto, but this would be the first time I’d see them on the road. I wanted to buy my ticket at the ticket office on the other side of the park, so I began the walk down a deserted East Adams Street:
I was happy to once again see the tiger-themed gate at the corner of East Adams and Witherell streets, but dismayed at the noticeable change since my last visit:
Yep, metal detectors. These
safety features banes of existence will be mandatory at MLB parks in 2015, but the Tigers are among a few teams using them this season. Metal detectors aside, here’s what the glorious-looking gate looks like in panorama form. You can click on all panoramas in this post to make them huge:
I bought the cheapest ticket available — $12 for a spot on the Jungle Rooftop Bleachers, which is an amazing section at Comerica — and snapped a quick shot of my ticket:
I still had 30 minutes to kill until the gates opened, which meant plenty of time to take a wander around the ballpark and capture the scene. The first shots I took were to build this panorama, which looks quite different that the one I shot back when I visited Detroit this January, don’t you think?
And, of course, there were lots of tiger statue photos, like this one …
… and this one:
Hard not to say that Comerica Park has the best-looking gates in baseball, right?
I eventually made a full lap around the park, stopping to snap this photo of the General Motors headquarters, which is several blocks away and dominates the Detroit skyline:
By this time, the gates were soon to open, and I grabbed the first spot in one of the lines in front of the metal detectors. The pavilion around the gate is made up of countless bricks donated by fans and ex-players. You know the drill. Anyway, the bulk of these bricks are fan messages, but when I looked down between my feet, I saw a name that caught my eye:
Baseball hall of famer Whitey Herzog played his last season of baseball as a Tiger before a lengthy managerial career, and it was neat to see the name of someone I instantly knew.
I spent the remaining few minutes before the gates opened talking with a couple members of the park’s security team about the metal detector situation. They said the new system was a pain. One actually joked that he should rent a spot in the parking lot, set up a trailer and have a “check your weapon” business: People leave their weapons with him for $10, and then pick them up again after the game.
The crowds around the gate were sparse, despite it being a fan giveaway game. After successfully passing through the metal detectors and being the first fan into the ballpark through these gates, I was handed a Tigers cloth shopping bag:
(I just informed my wife this bag is too important to use for shopping, and she rolled her eyes and sighed.)
I was thrilled to finally be back inside Comerica Park. As you might have seen if you read my two blog posts from 2011, my second game was postponed due to rain, so I’ve been anxious to return to this park ever since. It was awesome to get to the seating bowl and see the logos of my two favorite teams on the video board:
And look — it was only 4:57 p.m.! The gates had opened a few minutes early, which never seems to happen.
Since the Blue Jays were starting to filter out of the first base dugout to stretch, I zipped down to field level to take some shots. Here are relievers Todd Redmond and Dustin McGowan kicking off a run together:
And the bullpen staff celebrating after completing a run:
Jays pitching coach Pete Walker, who has one of the better mustaches in the majors today, was just a few feet in front of me:
Once the relievers headed into the dugout, I went that direction, too. Although the dugout was empty, it wasn’t long before Jays TV announcer (and former Jays player and manager) Buck Martinez appeared, and was obviously making a point about the intricacies of pitching to a couple other Toronto reporters:
As I hung around the dugout, I had a good, clean view of my theoretical seat for the night in the Jungle section. Check it out:
It’s my favorite section at Comerica; close to the action, affordable and a fun, party atmosphere. You can’t beat it, and I definitely recommend buying your ticket here if you’re visiting Detroit for a Tigers game.
Because it was drizzling, batting practice was off. This meant that with about 1:45 till game time, I had a lot of time to spend wandering around and taking in the sights. My first stop was the concourse booth that sells authentic Tigers items, and it was a blast to browse the game-used balls, jerseys and equipment, as well as the myriad signed items:
One of the staff members was trying to sell me a Victor Martinez signed helmet that was $600.
“Think of it this way,” he suggested, when I offered it was a bit outside my price range. “This time next year, it’ll probably be worth …”
“$400?” I interrupted, making a joke because I knew the direction he was headed before he got there.
“No, $700,” he said, but then admitted, “I have no idea who the player is, anyway.”
After deciding not to part with $600, I began a lap around the park, stopping at the statues in left-center to capture Ty Cobb in his famous spikes-up slide:
Each park I visit seems to have a different setup for the batter’s eye. At Toronto’s Rogers Centre, it’s a black, slightly tattered screen mounted over some empty seating sections. At Cleveland’s Progressive Field, it’s part of Heritage Park. The batter’s eye at Comerica is made of ivy, but has a walkway directly behind it for fans to pass from left field to right field. It’s sort of a bizarre blind spot:
Here’s a look at the area from the far side, after I’d emerged and was standing in right-center:
Because I was in the park so early and the crowd was light due to the rain, there was almost no one in the Big Cat Court when I arrived with dinner on my mind. The Big Cat Court is a fun spot; it’s known for the tigers-themed carousel, but the area’s circular design allows for a multitude of concession stands around the perimeter. I resisted the temptation to take a solo ride on the carousel …
… and instead headed for the Gourmet Hot Dogs stand. I’d heard about the Tigers introducing some notable hot dogs at the start of the season, and after conferring with a couple fans on Twitter, decided this should be my dinner plan. Take a look at this menu …
… and tell me what you’d get. (You can leave a comment at the bottom of this post or hit me up on Twitter.) Against the orders of my future cardiologist, I opted for the Poutine Dog. That’s right — a hot dog topped with french fries, cheese curds and smothered with gravy. As per usual, I took a photo of my food before tackling it. Ready?
And, as I’ve done in the past with difficult-to-eat items, took the long climb to the upper deck so I could eat it without making a scene. Once I’d grabbed a spot in the very top row of the stadium, I literally looked at the dog for about two minutes to figure out my eating strategy. I’d neglected to grab a fork, and had no idea how to dig in. But then, it hit me. I opened the end of the cardboard container much like the landing crafts used in the Allied assault on D-Day — history buffs will get the reference:
Doing so provided newfound access to the mass of gluttony. Soon enough, the only evidence that remained were a few curds on the ground and, I’m sure, some gravy on my face.
Next, partly to burn off a few of the calories I’d just taken in, I descended back to field level to hang out behind home plate. I can’t stress enough how awesome the Comerica Park ushers are. They’re hands down the best I’ve encountered on my travels throughout the major leagues. At some parks, you’re not allowed to get behind home plate before the game. Not a problem here. And when game time approaches, there’s no mass push to get every fan out of the area. Now, this isn’t to say I try to sneak into a seat at field level, but I do enjoy hanging out on the cross-aisle behind the field level seats. And although there are signs saying that standing is prohibited, the ushers don’t employ the Gestapo techniques common at other parks. Rogers Centre, I’m looking your way. It’s an extra reason to visit Comerica Park. The ushers truly make you feel welcome and you get the sense the team appreciates you buying a ticket. Anyway, here’s where I was standing, just to the third base side of home plate:
While I stood in this area, the rain let up and the grounds crew removed the tarp. Success! It wasn’t long before the Tigers started to filter into the dugout. Here’s starter Rick Porcello having a last-minute chat with Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones:
(Check out the giant jar of gumballs in the background.)
I stayed in the front row behind the Tigers dugout during the anthems, getting the opportunity to snap photos of guys like future hall of famer Omar Vizquel, now a coach with Detroit:
And manager Brad Ausmus sharing a laugh with Justin Verlander:
By the time first pitch came around, I headed over to the first base side, standing in the cross aisle behind the Jays dugout. From here, I was able to get a bunch more close-up shots of the players, but I’ll just share this wide-angle one I took of Porcello delivering to Melky Cabrera:
Cabrera crushed the next pitch into the seats in right field for his ninth home run of the season and celebrated with Jose Bautista right in front of where I was standing:
Speaking of home runs, I was pumped to get another chance to see Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the first. He’s probably my favorite current player who doesn’t wear a Blue Jays uniform, so I stayed put to watch his first plate appearance. This was the swing he put on a fastball from R.A. Dickey …
… and this was the result:
That’s the Chevrolet fountain in center field going off after the ball landed in the left field stands for Cabrera’s 11th home run of the season. Being so close to home plate when Cabrera made contact, I can unequivocally tell you it sounded different than the average hit. Absolutely incredible power, and a treat to watch.
I moved my position closer to the rear of home plate for the remainder of the inning, enjoying this outstanding view:
And then, with the game underway, resumed my travels around Comerica Park. My first mission was to head up to the Jungle Rooftop Bleachers area, not to find my seat, but rather to check out the New Amsterdam 416 Bar, which is new since my last visit. It’s an upscale, bar-style hangout between the Jungle and the right field seats. It’s got a bunch of comfy seating, and even a flaming bar. That’s not what I mean. A bar that flames? That doesn’t sound right, either. Well, just look at the photo and you’ll see some flickers of the flames:
Next, my travels took me past the Fox Theatre, where I snapped this shot of the sun beginning to set …
… and up to the upper deck. From here, I was able to spot my hotel, which I hadn’t been able to see yet. See the Grand Valley State University building? Look right above it and you’ll see a red-bricked building with white window frames. That’s the Hilton Garden Inn Detroit Downtown:
I watched a few innings from the upper deck, happy to take a seat after being on my feet for the last four-plus hours. The game was entertaining to watch — after the teams traded first-inning home runs from the Cabreras, the score remained close and I cut the tension by hitting a Little Caesars kiosk and buying a slice of pizza that was hands down the best ballpark pizza I’ve eaten. I couldn’t resist Little Caesars, given the connection to the Tigers. Mike Ilitch, the Tigers owner, got the start of his billion-dollar empire by founding Little Caesars.
Now, this next part might make you hungry, so be forewarned: The individual slices are square pieces so you get that delicious cheese-coasted crust on two sides. As an added bonus, you can get pouches of dried red pepper flakes to sprinkle on your slice. I’m contemplating going back to Detroit just for another piece or seven:
I spent the game’s latter innings in the outfield seats with this spectacular view:
One of the great features about Comerica Park is its view of the Detroit skyline, which you’ve seen in the previous images. One of my favorite parts of the skyline is the David Broderick Tower, which is characterized by its enormous mural of whales. I could see part of this building from my hotel room and, as I sat in the left field seats, had a great view of it at night over the Comerica Park statues:
The Jays blew the game open in the late innings, scoring three runs in the eighth inning and two in the ninth to claim an 8-2 win. The final out took place at 10:22 p.m. and from my seat below the video board, I had easy access to the final box score:
The walk back to my hotel was quick and provides another reminder why the Hilton Garden Inn is your best choice if you’re visiting Comerica Park. If you’re a little nervous about walking in the city at night, I can assure you that the walk from the park to the hotel is perfectly safe. Not only are there plenty of cops directing traffic, but you’ll find yourself in a throng of fans for the entire walk.
I was anxious to get back to my room and check out the night scene, and it didn’t disappoint. In the following panorama, you can see not only Comerica Park, but the bright lights of the Fox Theatre and plenty more. What a view!
I enjoyed the view on and off for the evening and finally got to bed after 1 a.m., or about 21 hours after my day began. A few short hours later, I’d be heading back to Comerica Park for a day game with perfect weather, Verlander on the mound, a return visit to the hot dog concession stand and a whole lot more.
I’ve got just 10 sleeps until my first baseball road trip of 2014, which I’ll be blogging about next week. In the meantime, though, I wanted to share one quick ballpark adventure I had over the winter.
Back in January, my wife and I made a quick to Detroit to see an Adam Carolla stand-up show at the Motor City Casino. I’ve been to Detroit a couple times in the past, including in May of 2011 for a pair of Tigers games at Comerica Park. You can read my fan guide to Comerica Park by clicking on the park’s name in this sentence, and blog posts about those two trips here and here.
Anyway, I’m a huge Adam Carolla fan and since he doesn’t travel to the east side of the continent very often, I couldn’t resist buying tickets. Where does baseball come in, you ask?
Well, first of all, we stayed at the casino hotel and ate dinner at one of its restaurants. From our seats, we could see both Comerica Park, the current home of the Tigers, and the site of old Tiger Stadium. The spot that Tiger Stadium once occupied is now a vacant lot. You probably wouldn’t even notice it, except the flag in center field still stands. I didn’t take my camera to the restaurant, and the dark, gray evening wasn’t very conducive to photos. There’s a great photo on Wikipedia, however, that show exactly what I’m talking about:
See the tall building on the left of the image? That’s the Motor City Casino, and the restaurant is behind the tall windows on the upper floor.
The morning after the show, we set out for the long drive home, but not before taking a drive around Comerica Park. It was neat to see the winter version of the park. Here’s me in front of the statues of Ty Cobb and Willie Horton, which are beyond the outfield fence:
And here I am in front of the famous tiger statue at the Witherell Street gate:
The tigers on the side of the building were wearing snow caps:
And we could see the snowy field as we peeked through from the sidewalk:
As we stood on Witherell Street, I snapped a series of photos to build this panorama to show the snowy scene looking away from Comerica Park’s gate:
The building in the center is the historic Fox Theatre.
I really enjoyed my visits at Comerica Park, even though my second game was rain shortened. If you didn’t see the notice on my website last week, I’m excited to say that I’ll be heading back to Detroit in June as part of a road trip. The rest of the dates and cities aren’t confirmed right now, but I can definitely say I’ll be at Comerica to see the Tigers host the Blue Jays on June 4 and 5.
I’ve taken several thousand photos since I began traveling and compiling research for The Ballpark Guide in the summer of 2010. The vast majority of my photos focus on the elements of each ballpark I visit, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve missed getting photos of myself in most locations. I often travel alone, and while it’s possible to hold the camera at arm’s length to shoot myself, some of these photos don’t turn out that great.
That said, I’ve got a handful of photos taken at different locations that I’m posting below. Click the date to read my blog about the visit.)
The second ballpark I visited, back on July 17, 2010, was Auburn’s Falcon Park. While I was snapping shots of the front of the ballpark, the man who lives next door to the facility offered to take my shot:
Later that summer, I traveled to Cleveland for two games on Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. During the second game, I got a few autographs around the visitors dugout, and then had my photo taken by another fan while sitting on the Indians dugout:
… and a day later, took one of me along the fence during batting practice. I snagged two balls here:
I toured around Michigan in May 2011, and watched the second of two Detroit Tigers games on May 25. Unfortunately, this game was called because of the rain after a few innings. While the tarp was still on the field, an usher took my photo:
On June 27, I watched the Hagerstown Suns play at Municipal Stadium. Bryce Harper was hurt and didn’t play, but that didn’t stop me from finding his truck in the parking lot and taking a photo of myself in front of it:
And on the second day, up on a deck in the left field corner:
The third-last game I watched in 2011 was on July 31 at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. Before entering the ballpark, my wife took a photo of me out front:
The Sea Dogs are the AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and Hadlock Field is equipped with a mini green monster. During our visit, fans were able to play catch on the field before the game. Here’s me in front of the scoreboard:
And while throwing balls off the wall and catching them:
And pretending to relay them to the imaginary cut-off man. (I can’t lie.)
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I feel silly starting basically every blog post talking about my excitement of such-and-such a game, but the truth is, I’m always pumped to watch baseball.
The problem, however, was the weather. As you can tell from the rain gear on the front gate attendants in the photo below, it was a wet, dreary day:
When the gates opened, I went into the mostly deserted stadium and made my way right down to the Tigers third base-side dugout:
I then went behind home plate, and you can see the rain-soaked tarp over the field:
Still, there was lots of optimism from the ushers, who said the rain was supposed to hold off until 3 p.m. or so, meaning we could get a couple hours in. After talking with an usher behind Detroit’s dugout, I got him to snap a picture of me:
Today, I was hoping to get some autographs. The day before, I didn’t try, but with no batting practice today, I hoped some guys would sign. Before long, Justin Verlander made his way out of the Tigers clubhouse …
… and didn’t sign for anyone. No biggie; it was neat to see him up close.
Pretty soon, though, a few guys started to sign. Below, you can see Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer signing:
They both signed a ball I had, and so too did recent callup Adam Wilk. Here are their signatures on my ball:
When Porcello was signing for the guy next to me, I snapped a close-up of his glove:
Before long, Tigers manager Jim Leyland came over and signed maybe 20 autographs. I was lucky enough to get him on the sweet spot of my ball:
Remember how the day before, I saw a ton of cool game-used and autographed Tigers stuff? Here are a bunch of signed bats for sale:
After walking around the concourse a bit, the skies started to clear so I made my way out to the left field corner again. I bought my ticket in this area again because it was cheap and allowed you to roam freely pretty close to the field. From my seat, I had a great view of the Tigers pen:
I had to chuckle when Detroit’s relievers made their way from the dugout to the bullpen. Like a day earlier, all but one of the relievers walked in a group to the pen. A few moments later, closer Jose Valverde, sans hat, strutted through left field mugging and giving the two-fingered salute to fans:
As the game was getting close to starting, Ryan Perry started throwing a bullpen session:
This panorama shows the action about to begin:
But less than two innings later, this was the scene:
Ugh. For those who wonder why I always book two games in each MLB city, this is why. The weather quickly became horrible, and it didn’t look like any more baseball would be played today. Look at the sky, and keep in mind this was about 2 p.m.:
I joined the rest of the fans in the crowded concourse and waited patiently for word of a postponement. Nothing came, and eventually, I went back to the game-used memorabilia stand that kept calling my name. The day before, I browsed through some actual lineup cards and decided I had to have one. I bought this Jays/Tigers lineup card that hung in Detroit’s bullpen during a road game. As you can see below, it’s signed by Jim Leyland. (I’m uploading a big file so you can click on it and see all the details. It’s awesome.)
Though there was still no official announcement regarding the future of the game, I saw the Tampa Bay bullpen guys scurry from the dugout over to the pen, pack up their stuff and run back to the dugout. Not a good sign, so with that, I headed out.
At the gate, an usher asked if I was leaving. I told him about seeing the bullpen get packed up, and he admitted that the Rays’ truck had pulled into the loading dock earlier. It’s a bit annoying that the team didn’t let the fans know right away that the game had been called, but I guess the more people who stick around and buy hot dogs, the better.
The rain, by the way, was ridiculous. I RAN back to my hotel, and there were many places on the sidewalks or roads that the water was above my ankles. Needless to say, by the time I made it back to my room, I was completely soaked.
I did, however, take one last photo of Detroit from my window. You can see Comerica Park’s lights, but not much else:
I had a great time in Detroit. Though it would’ve been great to see two full games, I had so much fun that it wasn’t a big deal. If you’re planning on taking in a Tigers game this summer, I’ll have a full stadium review up soon on my website. Please bookmark it and check back often to see which stadiums I’ve reviewed.
A couple days ago, I went to the mailbox and saw a nondescript envelope addressed to me. I got the impression it was some sort of junk mail wanting me to sign up for a credit card, but I opened it anyway.
Instead of junk, it was this:
Awesome! I usually buy tickets at the box office before the game, but since there’s no shipping charge for tickets bought online, I figured I’d give myself a fun day at the mailbox.
This ticket goes well with this one, which arrived a few days earlier:
I bought low-end tickets for both games, and I’ll see how easy it is to move from section to section. I know what the ushers are like at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, but I’ve heard Detroit’s ushers at Comerica Park aren’t too bothersome. So, if I need a more expensive ticket, I’ll buy it for my second game in each city.