As the only mother on the creative team here at Quicken Loans, I often have to turn down a lot of outings and fun Detroit nights out that a lot of my coworkers have. But I’m determined not to let the experience of enjoying Detroit go by the wayside just because I have a kid.
Fortunately, the Compuware building is amazing enough to have a childcare/school facility in the building so I’m able to bring my son, Jude, to work with me, and as a result, expose him as much as I can to this awesome, awesome city.
I’ve been keeping a list of things I want to show him and experience with him in the city and thought I’d share my list with the readers of this blog (in the off chance someone out there might be a parent looking for fun things to do with their kids in the city).
Quicken Loans is a great place to work. There is always something fun going on and yesterday was no exception. The IT teams had a post-it note mural competition! They created post-it note murals all over the 4th floor of the Quicken Loans office and they results were really cool.
Snow melts and everything around you turns from gray to green. When I was young, I never noticed. Nowadays, I get excited about the first tulip bud and hint of color in the trees.
It's also the time that our beloved Detroit Tigers pick up their bats for the season. Opening Day is the greatest holiday between my friends and I – a day to get downtown and soak it all up. We rarely ever go to the game – being downtown around other fans is enough for us.
But when I was younger, I knew nothing of the parties and Friday night fireworks. Instead, we had the radio and a soothing, southern voice to narrate our summer nights.
It was always so warm, so relaxed and with just a faint static of radio. Perhaps you would otherwise occupied, but then you'd hear a loud "crack" and then the familiar voice who'd make your head turn when he said, "It's loooooooooooooong gone!"
His name was Ernie, but he is Detroit. He may have grown up in Atlanta, but he's ours. Sorry, Atlanta.
Ernie Harwell coached Detroit Tigers fans through 40+ seasons of ups and downs. He was let go for about a year in the early 90s, but brought back by heavy fan demand. He retired in 2002 on his own terms and really….who were we to stop him? Ernie called the shots.
He announced he had incurable cancer in September of 2009. Just a few short weeks later, he gave a sort of farewell address before a game at Comerica Park. Watch the video of that below.
I remember years of my childhood spent at the ballpark watching my dad play baseball. Those days are marked in my mind – the sun on my face, running around under the bleachers, eating as many hot dogs as I wanted and sticky orange Faygo in a glass bottle, the crack of the ball on a wooden bat, my dad's white uniform stained with clay brown dirt from sliding into home.
I remember summer afternoons, my grandpa carrying a small radio in the front pocket of his button down shirts with Ernie Harwell's soothing voice calling out the Detroit Tigers hits and misses. To me, baseball has become synonymous with some of the best memories I can muster, and I'm sure it's the same for thousands of kids – young and old alike – across America.
"He hit that ball about as far as you can in this ballpark."
Those words, among lots of others, were heard by millions of Detroiters for several decades (from 1959-1996) in George Kell's familiar and friendly drawl. He was mostly the play-by-play guy for the Tigers, coupled with such other legends as Ernie Harwell and Al Kaline in both radio and TV broadcasts.
His voice was so smooth and serious, you could almost feel it through the radio. He's part of the old Tigers that I love so much. The great teams of my youth, the great old stadium (now mostly gone with a tiny portion left standing to tease our memories), the fact that so many games were on free TV then. I don't know. It's hard to explain but it was different then.
George Kell was from the old days. The old days I hold in high esteem. I knew Ernie Harwell and George Kell’s voices so well, they were almost like grandfathers to me. I could be blindfolded and pick them out of a room full of people back when I was younger. Today, I don't know the names of the Tigers' announcers, let alone their voices. I don't think I watched one game on TV last year and I may have listened to a few innings on the radio.
Detroit’s official symbol, the Spirit of Detroit statue (also know locally as the Green Giant), turns 50 today. And he’s been given a nice sprucing up just for the occasion.
The Spirit of Detroit sits outside the Coleman Young Municipal Center (where I valiantly and courageously served the citizens of Detroit for seven years, writing press releases and City Council Ceremonial Resolutions – I once wrote one for James Brown and another for the Emperor of Japan – I felt very important). Anyway, the statue is made of bronze and was completed by sculptor Marshall Fredricks in 1958. Its cost at the time – a mere $58,000. You couldn’t make it out of plastic for that today.
The Spirit of Detroit is often dressed in Detroit sports team uniforms – most often the Red Wings because the are most often in the playoffs and finals. Trust me, the statue has NEVER seen a Detroit Lions jersey. But it has seen a Pistons jersey several times, a Tigers jersey and even a tuxedo when the Three Tenors were in town.
Happy birthday, Spirit of Detroit. Let’s shoot for another 50!
Expensive parking is almost a given at sporting events. Sure, you can get cheaper parking if you want to park in a questionable dirt lot and walk a mile or two. But to park near the stadium - you’re going to pay!
At Comerica Park, you can park in the garage next to the stadium for $20. The Tigers offer 17 categories of tickets and 7 of them are under $20. What does that mean for the Tiger fans? You could quite possibly pay more for parking than you did for your ticket to the game.
So what is different from Detroit and Tampa Bay besides the weather? The Tampa Bays Rays decided to go green this season. “All vehicles with four or more passengers get FREE parking at all home games in 2008. For vehicles with fewer than four passengers, parking will cost $10. The Rays will also offer parking in remote lots for $5.” What a great idea to encourage carpooling, help the environment, and save the consumer a little bit.
Maybe Quicken Loans Arena will be next….let’s hope this idea catches on around the country!
Picture this: a bustling mass of nearly 40,000 people at a Tigers game – each one touching railings, seats, wiping away nacho cheese from their mouth, sneezing and dumping drinks down your arm. Ew.
That aside, I *adore* the Tigers, Comerica Park and the whole Tiger game experience. I’ve been to 4 games so far this season and I’m going again tonight to see them stomp the Red Sox (fingers crossed!). I love the game, the crowd, the food and every minute detail associated with attending games. Well, except for the hygiene factor. Oh, and parking. What a pain!
While the city of Detroit’s parking woes are a little bit more difficult to solve, Comerica Park has installed contraptions to thwart the excessive germs from fellow fans. Enter Sani-Post! (see lovely photo of said Sani-Post and myself). It’s a nifty little kiosk that dispenses antibacterial hand sanitizer without even having to touch anything. It’s also an extra bit of ad space for other local businesses. Love multi-tasking.
When I saw it at the last game, I thought it a small, easy addition for any major venue, but a great step for all the people who attend events like Tigers games. A little bit of DIFF, perhaps?
Yesterday was opening day down at the old ball park in Detroit and although I didn’t make it down there (Kelly did and got Tiger funky – that’s her 3rd from the right) it got me thinking.
Thinking about what baseball means to me and why I love it so much.
And why we REALLY love it in Detroit. Why we love our Tigers. Even during the dark years of the Tigers being one of the worst teams in history (1988-2006), we loved them.
Most folks I know around here grew up playing baseball for sure, but our love for the game goes beyond a simple nostalgic feeling toward a game you played as a kid. No, for Detroiters, baseball is bigger than that.