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.
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.