So the family and I decided to head down for tonight’s game. The plan was to have dinner at Cheli’s Chili before heading into the park. We parked at Grand Circus just before 5:00pm and were quite surprised to see a line of 20 people waiting to get into Cheli’s. This is 2 hours before game time, on a Thursday, against the Royals.
Seemingly thwarted at Cheli’s, we turn the corner to head to Hockeytown, only to see another line.
What’s going on here? They weren’t playing the Yankees and it wasn’t a weekend. Roger Clemens wasn’t even in town. This is the Royals and it isn’t opening day.
We reversed course and decided to wait it out at Cheli’s, and really the wait wasn’t bad. Within 15 minutes we were sitting in the patio area outside. As we enjoyed our drinks (beers and lemonades) and waited for our food I was looking toward Comerica Park and the surrounding area. People were all over. They were laughing and smiling and enjoying a very warm summer night. It didn’t feel like Detroit.
I’m not sure what it felt like. Maybe like an evening in St. Louis where the ball game is the centerpiece of the evening? Some place where a first place team is the only story of interest in July. I’m not sure, but just as my mind started to reflect more I heard the signature saxophone of Alto Reed with the opening of Bob Seger’s Turn the Page come on the stereo. And I was reminded I was in fact sitting in the Motor City and it was my team that was creating this buzz.
Gone are the days of 14,000 announced attendance and 8,000 people showing up. Gone are the days of just deciding to head down to the game on a whim and walking up to the box office. You still might get tickets, but you probably won’t get seats. The Tigers had 32,000 show up tonight, and it will probably be the smallest number for the entire 10 game homestand.
Also gone are the days of walking past 2 closed concession stands to find one that is open. Every stand is open, and every one has lines. In fact, the Tigers have even opened up kiosks where you place your order, pay with credit card, and then go pick up the food that has been assembled for you. (my wife tried and said it was much faster than the traditional method).
The Metro Detroit area has taken to the Tigers, and they’ve done it Joel Zumaya-fast. This wasn’t a long arcing buid up. Here we are 3 and a half months into the season and people have made Comerica Park the place to be. Fans aren’t unanimous in expecting the Tigers to win the division or a playoff spot, or the World Series. But the fact of the matter is there hasn’t been winning baseball here since the early 90’s and who in their right mind would want to miss out on this – whatever this is. Detroit isn’t just fielding a good team, they are fielding a team who’s accomplishments over the first 89 games are remarkable to say the least.
As my wife and I were weaving through a bustling concourse with the kids on our shoulders for safe-keeping, I kind of lamented that things just aren’t as easy at the balllpark as they used to be. She asked me if I would trade the winning to go back to the old ways. The answer of course is absolutely not. I’ll take the crowds and the lines. But still, I look around and think “Where Am I?”