Wednesday, July 9, 2014

First Game at Comerica Park

The entrance to Comerica Park from inside the stadium
Last summer, my wife and I took my two daughters to Nationals Park in D.C. to see the Detroit Tigers play the Washington Nationals. My youngest was still an infant, but I spoiled my older daughter with junk food. She had a hot dog, a ton of popcorn, and a giant pretzel...and she loved it. But it wasn't Detroit.

I remember the excitement of sitting in the back of my parents' station wagon while we rumbled over the brick paved streets of Corktown near Tiger Stadium. I was mesmerized by the enormity of the old ballpark towering above Michigan and Trumbull, the vendors peddling souvenirs and peanuts on the street, and the bustle of the pregame crowd.

Four-year-old me at Tiger Stadium in 1978
The ballpark was even larger on the inside, with its upper deck wrapping around the entire stadium with old, blue steel posts holding it up. It smelled old, but that was the odor of tradition. It wasn't just the tradition of great ball players like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, but also the tradition of fathers and sons (and mothers and daughters) who made pilgrimages to this stadium to cheer for their team.

Tiger Stadium in 1978
Tiger Stadium may be long gone, but I had to take my girls to the Tigers' current home, Comerica Park. We went to a 7:00 p.m. game on July 4. We parked in the lot outside the old Michigan Theatre, and walked through Grand Circus Park to Comerica Park. The area around the stadium was bustling, like I remember Corktown doing decades ago.

Miguel Cabrera at bat
My six-year-old daughter's face lit up as we approached the ballpark, and her excitement would only build throughout the night. We arrived at the stadium early enough to grab a quick dinner at the Beer Hall, one of the restaurants inside the concourse. The girls got hot dogs...I did, too, because we were in a ballpark, after all.

Beautiful night for a ball game
After eating, we went to our seats behind first base, where we watched most of the first four innings.  My almost two-year-old daughter might not be old enough to remember the game, but she definitely was old enough to enjoy it this time. She clapped when the fans around us were cheering and looked around in wonder at the crowds around her and the Detroit skyline towering above the outfield. My older daughter and I spent three innings eating roasted peanuts from the shell while I tried to explain the finer points of baseball's rules to her.

My daughter watching the game from the concourse
After four innings we met up with our friends and wandered the concourse, while I kept a close eye on the game either by sneaking peeks at the field from the concourse or by watching on one of the many televisions throughout the stadium. The four girls were thrilled to meet the Tigers mascot Paws and to ride the carousel. They also snacked on cotton candy and soft pretzels. My wife and I were impressed by the stadium staff's attentiveness to the young kids...several staff members asked us if it was our daughters' first game and told us to get a first game certificate at guest services.

Happy Fourth of July!
We eventually made it back to our section for the ninth inning, hoping for a Tigers rally, but the Tigers fell short on this night. Luckily, the night would not end in disappointment, because of the fireworks display after the game. My six-year-old stared in wide-eyed wonder at the fireworks with a smile that stayed bright longer than any of the fireworks.

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