July 13, 2015
Major League Ballpark #36: Comerica Park, Detroit
Among my trips to now-retired ballparks, one of my fondest memories is going to Tiger Stadium during its final weekend in 1999. That was before my annual ballpark trip was really a thing. But upon noting that one of the oldest parks in the majors was closing, I called some friends and said "Ty Cobb played here. We have to go." Almost sixteen years later, I finally made it to its replacement.
I arrived Saturday morning and was met by Rob, who drove down from Toronto. First stop was the Motown Museum, which was a lot of fun and is a great piece of American history. We got lunch at Traffic Jam & Snug, and upon leaving there discovered Motor City Brewing Works nearby, and felt obligated to stop in.
Detroit is...interesting. As I expected, reports of it being a complete hellhole are greatly exaggerated. Parts of the city are definitely making a comeback. There are plenty of cool old buildings, public spaces, and art. Yet the decay is obvious in places, often not far from the nicer parts, as was obvious on the drive from the Motown Museum to the restaurants and then on to downtown. Traffic Jam & Snug was on a stretch of newish restaurants and shops, and people were out and about. Not a block later: burned-out buildings. I'd say it's a good city if you like to root for the underdog.
From there we made our way to the ballpark, early enough to circle the lower concourse, see the statues, and view the displays of Tigers history. I made a point of seeking out the 1980's display and was pleasantly surprised to find hometown hero Tom Brookens (who I have discussed on the blog previously) prominently featured. Comerica has a lot of casual fan bells and whistles--a carousel, a small Ferris wheel, the Beer Hall with no view of the field--but nothing that detracts from the game. I didn't find the food to be particularly inspiring, but it wasn't bad, either--mostly basic ballpark fare. In all, it's a nice park, maybe not among the best in the majors, but a fine place to see a game.
For Saturday's game we sat in the upper deck via tickets procured by Paul & Rachel, former neighbors in Alexandria who now live in the Detroit area. The skyline view from the upper level reminded me of Pittsburgh's PNC Park. This game was Justin Verlander's return from the DL; he's not the Cy Young candidate he once was, but I had never seen him pitch in person before, so that was a plus. Verlander went five, game up two runs, and took a no-decision in a back-and-forth game that the Indians took 5-4. The Tigers got their big guns up in the bottom of the 9th, and Cabrera and Cespedes both got on base, but JD Martinez hit into a double play to end it. After the game we had dinner in Greektown (at a Greek restaurant, I mean duh, it's in the neighborhood's name), wandered through Campus Martius Park, then retired relatively early, because we are old.
Sunday was again, how to say, interesting. Rob had to head back to TO in the morning, which put me in a bind. Some other spots I'd considered visiting (the Henry Ford Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts) are not walkable from downtown, and there's not much in the way of public transportation (there's the PeopleMover, which circles downtown but doesn't really get you that far; beyond that it's buses, and good luck with that). I actually considered having Rob take me back to the airport, from whence I would rent a car. But I thought I could find enough to do downtown, so I had Rob take me to Eastern Market, where I got coffee and poked around for a while. But that got old quickly--there's only so many homemade candles and Detroit t-shirts I need to look at. I was ready to bolt by 10:45, and other things in the area I'd have been interested in (e.g. the Detroit City Distillery) didn't open until noon. So I ended up walking back towards the river (in the rain, yay), stopping in the Greektown Casino (where I lost $40 in short order), and eventually I ended up at the Renaissance Center, GM's office complex and would-be tourist destination. But even that was a little underwhelming on a Sunday morning. The food court: mostly closed. Stores: not many, what there were, closed. GM's show floor with all their cars: closed. Their "tour"/learn about GM thing: closed. For DC people, it reminded me of the Old Post Office Pavilion. I made my way out to the riverfront, which made for a nice walk. But by 12:30, for lack of much else to do, I headed back to the ballpark.
I bought a ticket on the lower level from a nice gentleman outside the park. I didn't spend a ton of time in that seat, though, as I went to the aforementioned beer hall to get something to eat and get out of the sun. I did see Miguel Cabrera hit a titanic home run, but shortly thereafter the sky clouded over and then turned to rain, and I got to see what Comerica Park looks like during a rain delay. I roamed the park for a while, but by the time they took the tarp off and prepared to get the game going again, I had to head for the airport. The Tigers eventually won going away.
In all, a great weekend. Only six to go: Miami (planned for next year), Tampa, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Colorado, and Arizona, plus Atlanta if/when their new ballpark opens.