Baseball season just started so that means your summer ballpark road trip is that much closer! In a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below.
Here's the first thing to consider when visiting the Detroit Tigers' home ballpark: Don't be afraid of Detroit.
Yes, we're all aware of how the city is perceived by the rest of the country and even by people who live outside of the metro Detroit region. Even Comerica Park's namesake sponsor left Detroit for Dallas a few years ago.
Drive to the ballpark and form your own perceptions, rather than lean on jokes about cars being set on fire in 1984. That was nearly 30 years ago. Get some new material. You're better than that. Or at least you should be.
1. Find your pregame (and postgame) stop: No need to just go to the Tigers game and immediately hit the highway afterwards. The area surrounding Comerica Park is nice. Enjoy a stroll with your fellow baseball fans. Places immediately surrounding the ballpark where you can get a pregame drink or meal include The State Bar (right next to the State Theatre The Fillmore), Hockeytown Cafe and Elwood Bar & Grill.
Harry's Bar and Grill is popular with many Tigers fans. You're a five-minute walk from the ballpark. If you go in before or after the game, parking is free (and secure). If you're in the mood for German food, a huge beer selection and a less crowded gametime atmosphere, Jacoby's is a little bit further (and east) from Comerica Park.
I've written this before, but I'm partial to a pregame cheeseburger at Nemo's, near the old Tiger Stadium. There's nothing fancy about the place or its menu. But there's a lot of Detroit sports history (with plenty of photos on the walls) to take in. Shuttle buses will transport you to and from the game, so parking isn't a worry.
2. Don't park at the stadium. If you don't want to walk very far, prefer a covered space and don't mind paying $25, you can park right next to Comerica Park in a garage. There are surface lots available, as well. But plenty of cheaper options abound surrounding the ballpark, and you most likely won't get stuck in postgame traffic either.
There is plenty of parking across Woodward Avenue, behind the Fox Theatre and Fillmore. You can find some parking for as little as $5 by Cass Ave. and Bookies Bar & Grille. Many Tigers fans also prefer to park on the other side of I-75, west of Comerica Park. (That would actually put you near the aforementioned Harry's Bar.)
Another option is to park in Greektown, near the casino. Play some blackjack or the slots, and go to a restaurant where the waiters will set cheese on fire at your request. (Opa!) From there, take the People Mover to the Grand Circus Park stop and walk over to the ballpark.
3. Ride the People Mover. As a form of mass transit, the People Mover is adequate at best and a civic joke at worst. But as a municipally-funded tour bus in the form of an elevated train, it's a pleasant diversion on your way to and from Comerica Park.
The People Mover really does provide a nice tour of downtown Detroit above street level, traveling in an 11-stop loop through the heart of the city, all for 75 cents per ride. If Spider-Man were swinging between the buildings, this is the view he might get. The view is at its best when the People Mover circles around Cobo Center and Joe Louis Arena, giving an unobstructed view of the Detroit River and our Canadian neighbor across the water, Windsor. (Windsor is essentially "South Detroit," for you Journey fans out there.)the Grand Circus Park stop you'll use near Comerica Park, you can also admire the sculpture of a commuter reading a newspaper (right). It may not sound like much, but it's an impressive piece of art, begging for a picture taken next to it. The sculpture looks so lifelike that I often expect him to raise his newspaper and obscure the face of whomever stands next to him for a photo. You know, just for giggles.
4. Pose with the Tiger. A far more imposing sculpture to pose next to — or in front of, really — sits just outside the main entrance of Comerica Park facing Woodward Ave.
Greeting you with paw raised — or ready to strike — as you approach the ballpark is a 15-foot tall tiger, something that simply has to be photographed by visitors, preferably with you and/or your companions in front of it. But you'll have to wait your turn. Lots of people want to take a picture with the tiger. And plenty of fans will be gathered around it, as the beast makes for an easy meeting place outside the park.
Here's where the Tigers really make fine use of their mascot. How many other MLB clubs can have a statue of their namesake awaiting you at the entrance? Does Fenway Park have a giant red sock to greet you? Hey, when we go to O.co Coliseum, let's meet at the... um, Athletic? The elephant?
Just in case the tiger motif isn't apparent enough by the big one at the door, take a little stroll around the facade of the ballpark and appreciate just how many tigers are guarding this place.
There are two bengals perched high above either side of the main entrance. Several tiger heads with baseball-shaped lamps in their jaws adorn the exterior of the stadium, like gargoyles. (Except these tigers don't function as water spouts, so I don't believe they could really be called gargoyles. Not that anyone was doing any such thing.)
5. Bow before Ernie. Something else that will greet you as you enter the park is one of the most important figures ever associated with Detroit Tigers baseball: a banner photo of a young Ernie Harwell shouting into a microphone.
It's a bit of a surprising image. For one, many of us never saw Ernie that young. Yet though he's obviously excited in this photo and was capable of showing high emotion, yelling isn't something typically associated with Harwell's broadcasting style. It was warm, folksy and friendly, the audio equivalent of a warm summer night watching baseball with a cool beverage.
As you step into the ballpark, a statue of Ernie smiling and holding a microphone welcomes you to a day of Tigers baseball. The gentle man in bronze looks as if he's ready to come up and say hello. Maybe he'll let you say something into the microphone. Just don't take his glasses like some jerkface did two years ago. That's just rude and mean.
Ernie would never call someone a jerkface, by the way. I actually feel kinda bad for doing it just now, even if it was in his defense.
6. Walk around the park. I don't know about you, but I find it frustrating when I can't take a lap around the entire ballpark through the concourse. There is no such problem at Comerica Park. Just make sure to turn your head and look in front of you once in a while. No need to walk into fellow fans, a food vendor or a post while you're keeping your eye on the field.
One of the nicest spots to stand and watch the game is in left-center field, where you can lean on a fence and enjoy an unobstructed view of the Comerica Park outfield while soaking up the warmth of a summer day or evening. While you're there, say hello to Ty, Hank, Charlie, Hal, Al and Willie.
Many major league ballparks have statues of their great players and popular figures outside. Comerica Park pays tribute to Tigers greats inside, allowing fans to hang out next to statues of Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser, Al Kaline and Willie Horton as they watch the ballgame.
7. Yes, there's a carousel and Ferris wheel here. The idea of having theme park amusements at a major league ballpark might offend the sensibilities of a hardcore baseball fan. I get it. I had much the same reaction when I first heard kids rides would be offered at Comerica Park.
But as much as you and I might dislike admitting it, many kids can't sit in their seat for three hours with their attention largely focused on a field where there's not always a lot of action. Unless you want to keep opening your wallet every time a food vendor comes around or dash to the concourse whenever your little leaguer wants some pizza or ice cream, you may have to come up with a different diversion. Enter the carousel and Ferris wheel.
But hey, you knew things were going to change when you had kids or agreed to take your niece or nephew to a ballgame. It falls upon you as a parent to institute some appreciation for the game of baseball and leave the theme park rides behind. Or just give him or her some cotton candy and hope it gives you 15 minutes to watch the game in peace.
8. Enjoy some real craft beer. While some MLB ballparks only pretend to have craft beer and insult the intelligence of discriminating beer lovers in search of something other than the watered down, mass-produced product typically offered at sporting events, Comerica Park offers the real thing.
A new craft beer stand located between sections 102 and 103 in right-center field features several locally made Michigan beers, such as Bell's Oberon, Founders All Day IPA and Atwater Dirty Blonde. If you've gone through a summer without trying a Bell's Oberon, don't deprive yourself any longer.
This kind of makes up for Comerica Park not really having any signature food dishes. Part of that is because there's not really a food item associated with the region. Sure, there's the Detroit Coney Dog. Those are delicious. Head over to Lafayette Coney Island and try one for yourself.
But it's not something you can't really get anywhere else (though Coney fans will tell you there's a difference between their hot dog of choice and a regular chili dog). Living outside of Michigan now, I know that all too well.
9. Right field for the right price. Several Tigers fans I consulted with for this article pointed to the seats in the right field grandstand as the best bargain in Comerica Park. No argument here.
Tickets are $23, which are the least expensive seats closest to the field. Bleacher seats are $18, and you can sit near the field, but there isn't as much action in the right-center field gap. If you're looking to catch a home run ball, this section probably gives you the best chance.
Old English D's Jennifer Cosey also likes the first few rows of seats in left field behind the Tigers bullpen. Not only do you get to see the activity going on in the pen, but Phil Coke might interact with you. If it's a hot day, he might provide another form of relief by spraying fans with the bullpen hose.
10. The shabby-looking folks directly across the ballpark aren't always panhandling. This one might be directed at myself more than anyone else, but I think it can apply to virtually everyone leaving Comerica Park.
As you leave the ballpark and walk toward Woodward Ave., several folks standing there look like they've seen better times and could very well be homeless. But just because those people look ragged doesn't necessarily mean they want a handout. They're Tigers fans and were enjoying the action going on inside the park too.
In June 2008, Gary Sheffield gave the Tigers an 8-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals with a walkoff RBI single. The game ended at nearly 1 a.m. due to a nearly three-hour rain delay. As I left the park and walked to my car, someone rambled toward me with a smile, "Hey, Sheffield!" I just held up my hand like I didn't have any money, didn't want the guy to come any closer and just wanted to go home.
"Hey, [bleep] you, man!" he yelled at me. "I wasn't asking for money!" Then he made a crack about my weight, which was kind of mean, but hardly any meaner than what I'd done. I wanted to go back to the guy and apologize, but I'm guessing he didn't want to hear it. Best to just flee the scene feeling like a jerk.
Be excellent to each other, folks. Whether you're at the ballpark or anywhere else.
Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park
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