The flashiest and most exciting part of my trip were the two Tigers games I saw during my first weekend. The series against Oakland was played in perfect weather conditions and in front of thousands and thousands of fans.
Like many Rocket Fever readers, I've been going to Tigers games since the mid-1980s. I've been to Blue Jays games during the last era of Tigers competitiveness. Nothing compares to the atmosphere I saw last weekend. Comerica Park looks a lot more impressive when it's filled with 40,000 fans. Especially when those fans are responsive to members of the starting lineup and bullpen.
I can think of few more exciting experiences than watching your favorite team while it's in first place, live — at a packed house. I'm sure there are Lakers or Yankees fans out there who are rolling their eyes at my enthusiasm, but that's just part of it: This hasn't happened with the Tigers in more than a decade, making it all the more meaningful. And, as I've said in the past, Michigan's relationship with the Tigers is special. More special, even, than with the Red Wings and Pistons, who've had blue-chip success in recent years. There's a romanticism, much of it inspired by old Tiger Stadium, surrounding the Tigres.
Making the experience even better was the good company I kept during the games. I was joined at the first game (a 9-5 A's win) by Jake and Bridget Cooley and Joe Rexrode. What with the Cooleys being die-hardconnoisseurss of all things Detroit and Joe having an expert's appreciation for all things sport, they were a perfect group to be with. At the next game (an 8-4 Tigers win), I was joined by family: Dad, Ma, Joe, my Uncle Tom from Seattle, Sister and her boyfriend, Tony. I can't think of better crowds to move with.
Some other notes from my baseball weekend:
- I got to see the first two games out of three in which the Tigers did something no team has done since 1891: Score five or more runs in the first inning.
- I not only saw Placido Polanco get hit in the face by Esteban Loaiza's pitch, I heard it. All the way from the outfield. Ugly. That he was able to sit out only one game is amazing.
- While I missed Verlander, I did get to see two full innings of Joel Zumaya. He got up to 101 a few times. Amazing. The ball is a blur coming off his delivery, so hard to see you almost think it's just a floaty in your eye.
- My opinion of Comerica has improved drastically since my first visit a few years ago. But, while it's a good park, it's no Tiger Stadium.
- I understand all the U of M garb I saw at the game. That's allowed, I guess. But I was perplexed at all the Cubs attire. Who in hell wears the hat of a perpetually failing franchise in another team's park? When that perpetually failing franchise isn't even playing? And when the home team is the best team in the Majors? And when I viscerally hate the Cubs?
- Finally, let me repeat what I've been saying: If you're within a day's travel of Detroit, get Tigers tickets. It's a very special environment there these days. I'm really lucky that I got to see a small slice of it.
Don't forget to check out my growing body of digital photographic work at Flickr.
And look for more hardball notes at 90 Percent Mental, a place where members of the Michigan Diaspora meet, where Dodgers fans vent, where Tigers and White Sox fans can have a civilized discussion.