Monday, February 20, 2006

The Tigers Even Let Me on the Field

The Detroit Tigers get a lot of grief, but sometimes they do things that are pretty cool – like giving the fans a chance to get out on the field.

And I’m happy to report that I’ve taken advantage of these opportunities for advantages ranging from improving my softball game to tripping Yankees fans.

I was reminded of these activities after seeing ads this month for season tickets.

The team is promising anyone who buys full season tickets the chance to get on the field and take batting practice. I thought that sounded too good to be true, so I chatted with team’s media rep.

Surely, this can’t mean bringing fans right on the field into the cage. They must be parading people to some drop-the-token-in-the-slot batting cage set up in the parking lot or something.

But no, the rep insisted that anybody who plunks down the cash for a full season ticket – admittedly a large expense – gets to step up to home plate and take five minutes worth of swings off live pitching, just like the pros.

That’s pretty cool. Granted, not as cool at Comerica Park as it would have been at Tiger Stadium, where you’d be standing in the same spot as Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline and Ty Cobb. It’s just not as intimidating saying “I stood where Brandon Inge grounded weakly to second many, many times.” But it’s still pretty cool.

I’ve been able to stand on the field, but in foul territory, in a number of ballparks. But to actually step between the lines is pretty sweet. And I’ve only done that twice at a major league park.

You won’t be shocked to know that I’m not above exploiting the kids for advancing such activities.

Then-Tigers coach Perry Hill demonstrates how to throw.

And when Andrew was 6, I saw that the Tigers were hosting a youth clinic day. If you had a kid with you, you could go out in the field where players and coaches were set up at several stations around the outfield bestowing tips to wide-eyed youngsters.

We spent most of the time wandering around the famed stadium’s centerfield talking photos.

But we wondered over to some of the stations and got some good tips. I’m not saying Tram and Lou were out there discussing how to turn two. The stars were definitely not a part of the clinic. But picking the brains of a real major-leaguer is always a good thing.

One of the guys out there was Andy Tomerlin, who played for the Mets in 1996 and 1997. A big debate around our softball team was how tight you should squeeze the bat. I decided to ask Tomerlin. Hey, if the Little Leaguers are too slow to get their questions in there, that’s not my fault.

Ex-Met Andy Tomerlin helps with my softball game.

The answer, by the way, is not tight at all. “Someone should be able to reach over your shoulder and pull it out of your hands,” he said. “You’ll tighten up as you get into the swing.” Good to know.

Justin Thompson later rolled a ball to Andrew, so it was a good day all around.

I was able to get back on the field again in 2003. It was our annual Executive Game, and it just happened to be photo day, where the Tigers rope off the infield, and allow the fans to gather on the field as the players – this time including the stars – would walk along and pose for photos.

And that’s all good – if you like the Tigers. We were more interested in taking in the view from center and posing for shots of us making great catches.

As things turned out, this was also the day – one of them – that Roger Clemens was going for win No. 300. The placed was packed with Yankee fans.

So I was stretched out re-creating Ron Swoboda’s masterpiece from the 1969 World Series and a guy wearing a Yankees cap fell right over me. He was taking a photo, and started walking backward, not watching where he was going.

You can see his feet in the photo. The guy was making a path for my noggin.

He was sprawled on the grass, and I'm thinking he's going to apologize, saying "Hey, nice Swoboda. Sorry I ruined your shot. Hope you're OK."

But nooooo. Yankee fan sat there, giving me looks of death like I'm in the wrong and as if there was no good reason for me to be stretched out in the Comerica Park centerfield.

Hey, it’s not my fault that the Yankees have no famous catches they can re-create. Unless, that is, they send some kid into the stands to pretend they are Jeffrey Maier.

So if you get the chance to get on to field -- lawfully -- jump at it, because it doesn't happen too often. And look out for humorless Yankee fans.


mike said...

Great post Dave. Comerica is a beautiful stadium. I had a great time there in 2004. I loved the wooden "lounge" chairs with the table between them to hold your beer. Can you imagine if they had them here in NY? It is a shame what Tiger Stadium and the rest of the city looks like though. They really should do something with Tiger Stadium. Are you psched yet? It's 2006!! Lets Go Mets!!!!

Denise said...

Hey.. those Tigers are something else. When they retire... they move to FL. and drive around on motorcycles.. (reference Mike Heath, Tiger 1986-1990)

Sunshine Sis said...

I think you should have had a ball in your glove to make the catch more realistic. Stinkin' yankees. No sense of the importance of scrapbooking.

Bob said...

Is that a Red Six cap on your head? Sheesh, Dave. :)