Day 2 on this trip takes me back to the states.
My mode of transport from Toronto to Detroit was a plane so small, it essentially was a station wagon with propellers and wings. I was sitting so close to the pilot that I could both hear and smell him pass gas the entire way.
I didn’t know what to expect from Detroit since I’ve pretty much heard nothing but bad things. Once the backbone of American auto industry and economy and a vibrant music scene, it had long since devolved into a 3rd world country. Yet, it is one of the few cities in the US to host at least one team from each of the 4 major sports. It was actually a nice surprise that my hotel was in a pretty nice section and the area around it was much better than I expected it to be. I took a walk down through Campus Martius park and had a great lunch in Greektown. I then took the People Mover to discover more of the city. The waterfront on the Detroit river offered some nice views of Windsor Ontario. From my hotel window, I could actually see the upper decks of the Comerica Park.
Around 5:30 I headed out down Woodward Avenue toward the park, again through some really nice areas. Everyone I spoke to at the hotel, cab drivers, etc. warned me that not all parts of Detroit were this nice so make sure I “know where I’m going”. As I arrived with the rest of the crowd to the park, I was immediately impressed. Comerica is just that – an impressive ballpark. The neighborhood off Woodward Ave where both Comerica and the Lions home Ford Field are located is actually very well lit, populated and relatively safe.
The home plate entrance to the ballpark is located across the street from the Fox Theater and near two historic downtown churches.
I entered through home plate gate and into the main concourse where there was a statue of legendary Tigers broadcaster and Hall of Famer, Ernie Harwell. Take a left from the Harwell statue and enter Big Cat Court which offers a wide variety of food choices including fresh squeezed lemonade, elephant ears, ice cream, french fries, Greektown food, shwarma, handmade pretzels, deli sandwiches, gyros, frozen daiquiris and Coney Island and Chicago style hot dogs. There’s plenty of good food options throughout the park as well as plenty of good local brews including one I fell in love with, Atwater Dirty Blonde. There’s also plenty of Molson – probably to accommodate the Canadaian fans who drove across the bridge from Windsor.
Besides the great concession variety found here, there is also the carousel. The cost for a ride is $2, although it is free on Sundays for kids. Instead of horses on the carousel there are of course tigers.
Behind the massive scoreboard in left field are six additional statues of all-time Tigers greats. They include Willie Horton, Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, and Al Kaline. All of them are absolutely beautiful action shots of the players, and really add to the historic ambiance of Comerica Park. The outfield areas by the statues is a great place to stand and watch the game with some really nice vantage points.
The Tigers are a charter AL team and have been around since 1901 and therefore have a long and distinguished history. In addition to the statues and plaques, there is memorabilia aplenty displayed through the park’s concourse of the great teams, players and their old home, Tiger Stadium. The displays are grouped by decade (1910’s, 1930’s, 1970’s etc.) and evenly spaced throughout the park in really sweet display cases modeled after cars as a nod to the ‘Motor City.
The scoreboard is also one of the coolest in baseball completed with 10 foot tigers on the top corners whose eyes light up red when a tiger hits a HR. Another unique feature is the ‘keyhole’ from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. This was common in early ballparks, yet very rare in modern facilities (the only other current major league park to feature one is Chase Field in Phoenix). The Chevrolet Fountain in center delivers high-tech ‘liquid fireworks’ during appropriate moments during the game. Suffice to say, Comerica Park is quite the experience, even if just to walk around.
First pitch temperature was around 60 degrees and sunny. I spent a good hour exploring all of the great features of the park and taking pictures. It was a large and energetic Friday night crowd. The temps dropped to low 40s once the sun went down forcing me to shell out 90 bucks on a (albeit very nice) Tigers pullover (which I haven’t worn since). I was really comfortable once I put that on.
The Astros jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on a George Springer RBI double, but the Tigers answered back in the bottom of the 3rd with a 3 run shot by J.D. Martinez and added 3 more in the 8th to put it away 6-2. Tigers starter Alfredo Simon was sharp giving up only 2 unearned runs over 7 to win his 5th game.
After final out I walked to the exit and watched the post game fireworks from the rails. I followed the crowd toward what I thought was the direction of my hotel but somehow took a wrong turn and found myself lost in one of the most crime ridden cities in the world. After 10-15 minutes, I noticed a ‘landmark’ from my journeys earlier in the day. The ‘landmark’ was a homeless person with a grimy yellow baseball cap who just so happened to be sleeping in the exact same gutter as he was earlier in the day when I first saw him. From there I was able to figure out my way back to the hotel. I stood awake for a while then set my alarm for an early wake up to take a Greyhound to Cleveland that I was more than half dreading.
Fans – C – They were more or less into the game but not terribly friendly or interactive
Features – A+ – Some of it may be gimmicky, but nothing was distasteful. The statues, scoreboard and memorabilia displays were excellent
Location – A – Right in downtown – Walk-able from lots of decent bars. One of the most active and safest parts of Detroit
Food – B – Decent options and prices, nothing really exceptional or unique
Game – C – No point where you were on the edge of your seat
Overall Experience – B+ – Great park to walk around in. Fun setting. Borderline B since in the back of my mind I knew I was in Detroit and had to make it back to my hotel without getting stabbed.