Taking the day off from work to watch some baseball? Absolutely!
Monday marked my fifth consecutive Opening Day game at Comerica Park. There's truly no experience like waking up at 7am, packing up the truck and heading to the Woodward lots to tailgate with friends and fans. Upon arrival the sun was just peaking over Comerica Park without a cloud in the sky. A breezy, but relieving 50 degree weather had been a blessing compared to this arctic winter we have endured. Verlander was set to get the start and a new look Tigers team was in place. After a busy and unsettling spring, I truly have set my expectations to consistent nervousness, as this will be a gritty season for the Tigers. I took all the necessities out of the trunk for the "perfect" tailgate. Beers, brats, hot dogs, grill, charcoal, you name it, I supplied it. The lot was surprisingly not as packed as I had expected, but it was perfect for getting a good spot near the Scotty's Potty's. I fired up the grill and threw the brats and burgers on. Come 9am, the lot was full of eager Tigers fans anticipating a great game and season. Fans, of course, were dressed in Tigers blue and orange. After hydrating myself with some adult beverages, I began my trek to the entrance gates. Once stopping at Gameday Detroit (great Tigers apparel), I waited only five minutes in a 400 person line to get into the stadium. Thoroughly impressed with how security got everyone through, given the new security measures they've implemented.
Once through the gates, I made my way to section 149, Row R, Seat 3. Stubhub hurt the bank account, but Opening Day is well worth the money for this atmosphere. My roommate had joined me for his first Opening Day and experience seeing Verlander pitch. I'm beyond impressed with Salvador Perez, very jealous of the Royals having that talented kid behind the plate. JV was efficient, but his fastball remained flat and over the plate quite a bit. Alex Gonzalez was impressive, especially after the uproar of his inabilities to play short at age 37. Obviously it's only one game in, but if he can hit for .250 and play good defense (Peralta type D) I will be more than satisfied, as I'm sure the fan base will be also. The player that truly stuck out to me was Castellanos. Absolutely love the way he pulls his hands inside the ball and hits it to the gaps. The way Ausmus managed the game was superb. Evan Reed was sharp, considering he was questionable roster addition before the Rondon injury happened. Al Albuquerque is the true key to this bullpen nightmare. If he can lock down that setup role to get it to Nathan in the ninth, I see no reason to be concerned with the guys remaining before him. The last bullpen move of putting Nathan in there for 9th was the only move that was logical. Hold down the Royals in the top of the inning and have us win it in the bottom half. Heading to the bottom of the 9th, you could just feel that something good was to come. Fortunately we didn't have to face Greg Holland until Gonzalez's plate appearance. Wade Davis got Austin Jackson to ground out. Avila followed up with a one out walk. Tyler Collins came in to give some speed on the base paths, pending a gap shot. Castellanos then came up and pulled his hands inside on an offspeed pitch from Davis and singled to right center, advancing Collins to third. Could it be that the most irritant acquisition of the spring, would be the one who would cap off a great Opening Day? On a 2-1 pitch, Gonzalez laced a well located curveball to left for the game winning hit. The Tigers won 4-3 and took JV off the hook for a loss.
I stood and raised my hands, while looking for anyone and everyone to give a high five to. It was such an electric and relieving feeling to have the Tigers defeat the Royals and start the season off on a high note. As I exited the gates there was not an expression other than a smile and laughter on the fans faces. What a way to cap off the 2014 Opening Day with a walkoff, comeback win. I'm hoping this is a sign for great things to come this season. If you have never experience an Opening Day, I highly suggest you go at least one time. Ain't no party like a Detroit party is highly accurate.