As a kid going to Tiger Stadium, I didn’t need a Ferris wheel, a merry go round or a food court to augment the simple pleasure of watching major league baseball. If you wanted an amusement park experience the destination was Bob-Lo Island or Edgewater Park.
But even when fans don’t care to venture into those sideshows at Comerica Park and other stadiums throughout the country, they are constantly bombarded with a relentless barrage of commercial hype and sensory overload that makes it feel like the play on the field is the sideshow. (Just look at all the “fans” during a game casually strolling through the concourse and food courts like it was Oakland Mall.)
For me, the flashing advertisements, in your face scoreboards, and loud music have taken away the subtle sights and sounds of what was part of the pastoral beauty of baseball.
Perhaps my greatest disappointment of going to a ballgame (besides the major fact that the game is not being played at a renovated Tiger Stadium, a la Fenway and Wrigley) is the way the Tigers and other teams have ruined the experience of watching the players take fielding and batting practice prior to the ballgame.
This past Saturday I entered Comerica Park when the gates opened one and a half hours before game time because a family friend’s 13-year old son from Grand Haven wanted to watch batting practice and try to get a ball and some autographs.
To my amazement, I discovered that fans can’t even watch the Tigers take batting and fielding practice at the stadium!
When the gates open, only the visiting team is on the field because the Tigers have already completed their practice. I did not realize it but apparently a few years ago the ballclub stopped letting fans in two hours before game time when they could see the Tigers take batting practice.
I tried to explain to young Sam my experience of pregame practice at Tiger Stadium when I was his age. I doubt if he heard me because I could barely hear myself speak with the annoying and very loud music blaring out of the speaker system.
To his disappointment, Sam would not get to see Boesch, Cabrera, and Fielder hammer the seats or watch the Tiger infield take ground balls off a fungo bat.
In Donald Hall’s wonderful book, Fathers Playing Catch With Sons, the nationally renowned writer and poet offered this description of watching pregame practice at Tiger Stadium when he was a professor at the University of Michigan over thirty five years ago:
It’s the old world, Tiger Stadium, as baseball is. It’s Hygrade Ball-Park Franks, the smell of fat and mustard, popcorn and spilled beer…….Balls arch softly from the fungoes, and the fly-shaggers arch them back toward home plate. Batting practice. Infield practice. Pepper. The pitchers loosening up between the dugout and the bullpen. We always get there early….
For me, it was a thrill to watch batting practice at Tiger Stadium and to hear the constant crack of the bat from the batting cage echoing behind home plate since many of those seats were empty two hours before game time. (At Comerica that wonderful sound can barely be heard because it is drowned out by extremely loud music.)
When Willie Horton was shagging flies he was especially generous to the fans in left field and would frequently toss them baseballs, much to the chagrin of penny-pinching Jim Campbell who admonished the players for doing that.
It was also fun watching the players horse around and play pepper and then see the coaches using fungo bats to hit grounders to the infielders and fly balls to the outfielders. I especially enjoyed watching Al Kaline, Willie Horton, and Jim Northrup throwing the ball home on one hop to catcher Bill Freehan. ( I am fairly certain that the players today don’t even practice doing that and perhaps that’s why runners so often can tag from third and score on a lazy flyball to mid-outfield.)
But wait! I just discovered on the Tigers website a special batting practice promotion called Tigers Flex-8 Plan!!
“For as little as $14.00 per game, each Flex Plan will include the September 5th and 19th games plus six games of your choice that provides exclusive Batting Practice early entrance vouchers to view batting practice from the left field seating area.”
OMG. Even batting practice is for sale.
That being said, from a bottom line stand point, the Tigers must be doing a lot of things right because apparently they could very well set a franchise record for attendance.
However it could be an even better experience.
Here’s a suggestion.
Save the music for Joe Louis Arena, and give batting practice back to fans.
11 replies on “Tigers strike out with Comerica Park pre-game workouts“
I couldn’t agree more. Music at games drive me nuts and often replace times when the old organ was playing. I lost much love for baseball when Tiger Stadium was lost. Tiger fan in SC!
The game is changing at such a fast pace and not for the better.
Nice article. I have the same memories of BP at Tiger Stadium.
By the way, if you have a season ticket package at Comerica, 27 or more games, you can get in early to BP as a benefit part of your plan for no extra cost. At least that’s the way it was last year.
Excellent post – baseball has monetized everything they can and left nothing on the table. This I expect, but the constant bombardment of music and other sensory experiences subtly conveys to the fan “yes, we know baseball is boring, but look we offer so much more at the stadium!”
I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I do agree that the music is way too loud at the ballpark. I think hearing five seconds of a song for every home player’s at bat is ridiculous and stupid.
Just to say, though, these things aren’t unique to Detroit. Every team has the loud music, only visitors batting practice and the selling of special privileges that used to be free. I know it’s a different thing at Comerica as opposed to Tiger Stadium, but I think it would be going on even if Tiger Stadium were still standing.
Great-accurate article. Iwas lucky enough to work at Tiger Stadium in the early 60’s as a stand boy. When we got set up I would head right out to watch batting practice-it’s a part of the game.To charge is not right-also it discriminates against the fans who can only afford to make one or two games a year.
BILL VERY WELL PUT, BOY DO I REMEMBER THOSE DAYS WITH MY DAD, GIVE ANYTHING TO HAVE TIGER STADIUM AND MY DAD BACK AGAIN
Spoken like a true fan! It’s such a shame what the game has become. Loud rap/hiphop music resonates throughout the park. Loud mouth know it all announcers on the tube, the rediculous fair atmosphere (if kids want to ride on rides take them to a fair or carnival) there is a BASEBALL game being played! I don’t go to a fair or carnival to see baseball! The double gates for day/night double headers. But the reality is as long as people pay they will put the screws to us. Have you tried to get an autograph for a child? Good luck! I always laugh when I see player’s signing. It had to be staged! And who’s to blame? Bud Selig! He is the WORST commish of any major sport in history! He and his cronies have stained the game more then anyone in history! Shoeless Joe? Pete Rose? Balco Barry? Sammy Roid? Raphael B-12? All did less to stain the game then old Bud. But hey Bud got rich and that is ALL he EVER cared about. He NEVER cared about the game REAL fans cared about! I also wonder what Mr. Illitch is thinking? No one has done more for Detroit in the last 30 years and yet he has a stuck in the mud manager, some of the worst coaches in all of sports and without a doubt the worst T.V. announcers! I thought Rick Rizz and the other cat that replaced Ernie years ago were bad but Rod and Mario? Please the ABSOLUTE WORST!!!!!! I feel ya big boy will NEVER replace Long gone! Listen to Rod sometime I doubt he know more the 25 words. As for Mario? When he’s done sucking up and agreeing with Rod he still sucks!
Karen Elizabeth Bush
Bill hits the nail on the head for just about anyone who is a true baseball fan, for anyone who is interested in the elements of the game, for anyone who comprehends what actually is going on during batting practice, or that there’s a point to infield practice.
But those are not the people to whom the Ilitch organization wants to sell tickets, anyway — because baseball fans don’t spend a lot of money — except on more tickets. They buy scorecards and hotdogs and pencils. They don’t buy a souvenir “game ball” that somebody else caught, or spend hundreds of dollars on jerseys with questionable autographs. They don’t charge in herds around the basepaths, either. They remember reaching over the railing to touch the warning track and maybe carrying away a few precious grains of clay — clay, that squirreled away in a baby-food jar was infinitely more valuable than all the “turn back the clock” jerseys or Tiger logo tank tops in the world.
Bill’s left out my personal pet peeve — the useless, useless Comerica Park scoreboard, filled with modern, meaningless stats (Pitch count? Give me a break!) whenever the ball is in play, but when someone who is scoring the game looks to verify information — lineup changes, and so on — between plays, all the scoreboard shows is some grinning kid screeching and waving at the camera.
Bill’s right on the money. Comerica Park’s focus is not on baseball, and its ignorance of the little things that make up the baseball experience just about leads the league.
I recommend a trip to Toledo, Bill. The Hens do their share of minor league hype, as they should. They’re a minor league team. But, if you try to buy a coke from a vendor in the stands and somebody steals a base, look out. He may pour it on your shoe, because he’s watching the game, too (and he understands it).
Blasphemy. Had no idea. When I think about all the bp balls my brothers and I got in the 70 s and 80s and now diacover that ezperience will cost extra for my kids and I it really makes me believe mlb is clueless. Toledo here I come.
Bill has hit the nail…My exact feelings from 2000 on, and increasingly so. It’s too much sidetracking entertainment and noise.
Charging to see Tiger’s batting practice??
Are times that tough in the pizza business? S____T.nasty note to follow.
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