The field I grew up dreaming I would play every day on. It is a field I have seen before, but never from this vantage point, the press box. People have come and gone from these stands, press box, and field, and though legends and Hall of Famers will always be remembered, it is the game that remains. Four bases, dirt, and 2 chalk lines that when crossed, can immortalize. Each step, after one on the diamond, is a better one, a more meaningful one. Men amongst a ghost, the spirit of this country, its past time, and the game I love so much.
I traveled 12 hours this August, from the Motor City Detroit, to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis. Leaving after the 6 o’clock news Friday night, we drove to the west side of Michigan, boarded a ferry, and conquered the great Lake Michigan. In the middle of the night we saw the dim lights of Milwaukee, as my co-workers from ABC 53 and I were on our way to cover a pivotal Tigers Twins series.
Heading into the weekend the Tigers were a Major League best 69-33, and the Twins, 59-43. It is now months later and the hunt for October is here, and the AL race is still a tight one between these two young and surprising teams. We checked in early Saturday morning. The Tigers had already taken the opening game of the series Friday, beating rookie flame throwing Francisco Liriano. Our hotel was a five minute car ride to the Metro Dome; we parked next to the players in the press parking lot, got our passes, and walked through like we owned the joint. We set up in the press box, got the starting lineups, and walked down a few flights of stairs to for a pre game meal.
Nearly every seat was filled in the box, the national anthem brought the 45, 496 fans to their feet, and it was time to play ball. Brad Radke took the mound for the Twins, and quickly turned a roar into a moan as thousands of fans were silenced by a 2 run Tiger first. With an early lead a confident Nate Robertson didn’t allow a run until the fourth, but with the Tigers scoring in each of the first 4 innings the Twins found themselves in a deep hole. Tigers center fielder, rookie Curtis Granderson belted 2 homeruns, notching 3 RBI’S securing an 8-6 win, and a chance heading into Sunday for a sweep. As a Tiger’s fan, I was ecstatic, and repeatedly had to catch my self from losing my objective point of view. We were in Minnesota after all, and most every member of the press was a Twin fan. To help maintain my cool was a bevy of free concessions, hotdogs, soft pretzels, Ice cream and even cold beer after the games completion.
Our spirits were high as we trickled out of the stadium amongst the masses. We got to our van, put away the camera and gear, and pulled away from the crowd surrounding the players exit. Just as we were pulling out of the parking lot we spotted 21 year old Joel Zumaya. He is a Tigers relief pitcher most notably known for consistently lighting up 102 MPH on the gun. He was walking back to the team hotel with his brother and girlfriend, and was more than happy for a ride. I couldn’t believe it, the guy I had been watching in awe of the entire summer, was now sitting a foot from me. He was very nice, we asked him about the games, and how he liked playing in Minnesota. We arrived to the Hilton where they were staying, Joel and his company exited, and I was left star struck.
That night the other intern and I hitched a cab down town, with one intention, celebration, for the Tigers of course. We told the cabbie we were ready to get wild, and he said he had just the place. The city was wonderful, being from Detroit I rarely get to experience the full night life scene. There were lines down the block for many of the bars; we were hardly in the mood to wait. Finally we got to a joint called Champs, it was located in the alley between two sky high buildings. It was long and narrow with a stage at the deepest point. The local band was already in mid-set as we arrived, and the ladies were shaking their groove ‘thang. We played the card of being important young sports reporters from ABC, and somehow, it worked. Drinks were not cheap, but hey, it was the only thing we paid for all trip. Several rounds later me we were on the dance floor, having a time we would not soon forget. The night winded down, we gave a toast to the Tig’s, and caught a cab ride home- knowing regardless of Sunday’s outcome, baseball was back in Detroit.