On Tuesday, we spent a quick but packed day in Michigan, first visiting my mom’s hometown of Kalamazoo, then to pick up Aaron’s high school friend and her husband in Ann Arbor, and then off to Detroit for some baseball. Aaron’s friends are Red Sox fans, after spending a few years in Boston, but had the respect to leave their hats at home. Somehow, Red Sox fans have been everywhere on this trip, even when they aren’t playing. We knew we were in for some away team rooting as we approached Comerica Park.
From the few blocks of Detroit we saw, the city lived up to my expectations. If something can live down to expectations, the city did that too. Abandoned warehouses and theaters with flashing lights surrounded the baseball and football stadiums. Comerica is guarded by Tigers. Not live ones, but lots of sculptures that are just as frightening. Usually a team with an animal mascot embraces the cutesy, stuffed version of said animal over the realistic, growling version. But Michiganders are taking their wildlife seriously.
Enter the Squirrel.
Early on in the game, a brown squirrel found its way into the outfield. I can only assume that a squirrel in Detroit has never seen as much grass as this one did at this moment. He relished in running, thought not quickly, from right field to left and back again. He would wait attentively as pitches were thrown, facing home plate and flopping his tail. The entire stadium became enraptured with Squirrel. Cheering for him more than their home team.
Even though this game was close. At least while the squirrel was on the field. The first inning, both teams score a run. The Red Sox score two more in the third inning, but the fans have other things on their minds, including:
-The Red Wings in game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. A fan in front of us has headphones on. A fan behind us refreshes her blackberry. The fan next to us watches a TV in a nearby skybox. The jumbotron advertises the score every once in a while.
-Activities around the stadium, such as a carousel (more tigers!), the “how fast can you pitch” game (so loud!), the Dunkin Donuts coffee race (Go Coffee!)
-The collapse of the automobile industry. In the outfield, signs advertise Chrysler, General Motors and Ford. In between innings, a fountain blasts water behind them, highlighted by colored lights. Given that GM declared bankruptcy the day before, one would think they’d cut down on the fanfare. We can see the sign for Ford Field, where the Lions play, just behind left field. One can hope by football season, this will still be relevant.
-More with the Squirrel. He is fed by the Tiger’s first base coach. He is ultimately chased by 4 grounds crew members around outfield, to many cheers from the stands, and he jumps onto the center field wall, just in front of the ivy. He makes a triumphant return in the bottom of the 5th. He hangs out in the outfield until the inning break. This time, 7 grounds crew members appear. He is eventually chased into the Red Sox dugout. The stadium is the most lively when the Squirrel is on the field. Not when the Tigers are.
The Tigers must be thinking of at least some of this as they bobble ground balls, walk in runs, strand baserunners.
The Red Sox score two more to make it a 5-1 game in the top of the 6th, though by this point many of the fans, in their Red Wings gear, have started to leave the stadium. The majority certainly aren’t there as the Tigers keep hope alive in the bottom of the 9th to load the bases. Predictably, they leave each runner there, never to cross home. It’s the fans that are home – watching hockey, looking for a job, or telling the story of the Squirrel.