Comerica Park - A Visitor's Perpective

Leon Halip


Hi again BYB:

Because you guys were so gracious and informative when I asked for some suggestions and pointers about visiting Detroit, I thought I'd give a little something back to your community and write up and photo up a summary of my day trip to Detroit. Again, I thank everyone for the advice and food suggestions in my initial inquiries, and I would gladly return the favor if anyone were to visit Atlanta for similar reasons, although I think my home is a little on the boring side sometimes.

Anyway, let's get one thing out of the way, I had a good time in Detroit, even in spite of the continuation of my dreadful winless streak when it comes to my seeing the Braves playing in a new park for the first time. I'm so used to seeing the Braves lose when I make a specific trip to see them that I just don't get bothered by it anymore. The suggestions and expectations set by BYB had a lot to do with it, to which I am again, grateful.

My trip to Detroit actually almost didn't happen, due to a massive influx of people deciding to go to Detroit on Saturday as well. I actually hoped the ownage the Tigers put on the Braves the night before would actually deter people from wanting to go, but apparently a lot of other people had the same idea I did, as indicative by the number of people in my gate wearing Braves hats, shirts, jerseys of varying ages. Thankfully, just enough people no-showed for a 7:25 am flight, or were stuck at the furloughed security checkpoint to where I was just barely able to eke out a seat on the flight, and quell my biggest anxiety of the day. Everything else would proceed to go uphill from there.


So, based on many suggestions about Bookie's, and generally parking on the west end of the ballpark, that's where I parked, and where my journey began. Now I didn't actually park at Bookie's, but across the street. It was $10 vs. $20, and I chose to take the cheaper route, even though it appeared that certain parts of that area appear to be free to park along the curbs. Either way, I didn't want to take the risk with a rental car. But anyway, my first glimpses of Detroit, I have to say were kind of what I expected: lots of chain-link fences, and buildings of varying sizes. I know Detroit has a lot of stereotypes of being like the murder capital of the country, and where buildings lie rotting and abandoned and such, and I was really hoping that a lot of it was just exaggeration, but to some degree, I guess what I'm saying is I guess I wasn't surprised by this being my first real glimpse.


I deliberately took the earliest flight out to Detroit I could because one, it's usually the best shot for a standby traveler, and two, I wanted as much time as possible to walk around before the game. It's something I enjoy when I visit some place new. When I decided that I wanted to visit all the MLB cities, sure, seeing the parks was great, but ultimately it's a convenient excuse to visit places I normally wouldn't really think of visiting. I'm not knocking Detroit, or Michigan in general, but I never really had any reason to visit. I don't have any friends or family out there, and there's nothing that made me feel like I needed to visit. So baseball became a very convenient excuse, and thanks to the enthusiasm shown by a lot of you in the old thread, I was excited for my visit after I saw some appealing suggestions.


Since I had been up since 5:30 a.m., and hadn't really eaten anything other than airplane snacks, it's safe to say I was pretty hungry. I saw on American Coney Island's website that they were 24 hours, so I had no hesitation with going there first. The funny thing is that I walked in the door, and all the employees were sitting at a table together, with the rest of the restaurant completely empty and stared at me as if I had interrupted something. It was a pretty awkward moment, but they were quick to assure me that they were open and could serve me right away.

I ended up eating a Coney Island, much to everyone's recommendation, but since I'm a slovenly pig, I ended up getting a gyro sandwich as well. Possible the best $9 I spent on the entire day.

Ideally, I would have gone straight to Lafayette Coney Island right next door, but they looked closed, so I decided to go walk off the food I just ate, and come back if I happened to come in that direction.


In spite of the not-so-flattering pictures I'm showing, I will say that I did like Detroit. It sounds cliched, but the city does exude a blue collar atmosphere that resonates well with me. I grew up remembering my folks working in varying factories back in the sticks of Virginia, and let's face it, like most Americans I didn't exactly grow up with lots of money in the bank. But anyway, much like Atlanta for me, I guess the picture is more to represent that just outside the walls of our home ballparks isn't necessarily always daisies and bustling commerce.


Living in Georgia, where tailgating is essentially a sport itself, seeing numerous groups of Tigers fans in their white jerseys or various shades of orange was a familiar sight. More so with corn hole being played, although I can't remember the last time I saw people actually playing beer pong in a parking lot back home; the people would rather just drink it straight up than act as if drinking were a "punishment."


Now despite my commentary about the aesthetics of the city, I'll go ahead and say that the exterior of Comerica Park is one of the more welcoming and inviting ballparks I've seen in recent years. Approaching from the first base side, the lawn on Columbia in front of the gates makes it kind of eloquent in a way. It's hard to put into words without trying to sound all artsy-fartsy, but it's like just about every park I've been to, it's just asphalt and sidewalks, with the entrances to these parks being shoe-horned right next to these busy intersections. The anticipation of walking up Columbia toward the gate was kind of nice, and for someone that likes to take a ton of pictures, provides a decent exterior picture opportunity.


I didn't go into the park right away, because I wasn't sure if Comerica had an in-and-out policy. Seeing as how I still had a few hours until first pitch, I decided to walk the streets some more and try to take in more sights the city may have to offer. I found this one wall that I liked, and it made me realize that in spite of the negative connotation stereotypes that is involved with Detroit, there are things like this that still show some local pride. There were other things I saw that I didn't photograph, like a wall mural that said "outsource to Detroit," and "Detroit loves graffiti," and other things like that, but the endearing things about such messages to me is that there's a sense of local acknowledgment that's understood here. Like in contrast, the city of Atlanta spend millions of taxpayer dollars to try and create a brand for the city; resulting in this abomination of a logo that nobody recognizes, and those that do, make fun of it. I don't think local pride can be forced like that.


Before I knew it, I found myself back on Lafayette Blvd, and I was back in front of the two Coney Islands. And this time, the door to Lafayette was propped open, so I knew they had to be open. I went in and ordered their Coney Island, which I devoured in like a minute.


Maybe you’ve been told already, but when you’re at Lafayette ask to use the restroom. It will blow your mind.

by dluke85 on Apr 24, 2013 | 11:33 AM

Yeah, don't ask me why, but this comment stuck with me. So prompted by morbid curiosity, I asked if I could use the restroom, and I kind of had an idea what to expect, based on the fact that the interior of Lafayette was tiny, cramped, and I didn't see a restroom anywhere on the main floor, so I knew it was probably going to be in the basement.

Now I might be showing my age a little bit, or maybe there are other diehard Goonies fans here at BYB, but I'll tell you precisely what was going through my head when I climbed down those super steep steps to the restroom: the part in The Goonies where Mikey and the gang first meet the Fratellis, and Mikey asks to go the restroom. Ma Fratelli sternly cautions Mikey "downstairs, first door on the right" and proceeds to scream "STAY TO THE RIGHT" repeatedly. Obviously a ruse, Mikey pokes his head into the restroom, winces at the smell, and proceeds to go beyond the first door, where he finds another room at the end of the hall, where Sloth is chained to the wall.

Well, nobody was screaming at me to STAY TO THE LEFT as I descended those deep stairs, but I sure as hell felt like Mikey. But instead of going into the door at the end of the hall, I actually went to the restroom.

But I'm convinced Sloth lives in the basement of Lafayette Coney Island now.


Anyway, instead of embarking on a zany adventure that probably would have taken me into the catacombs of Windsor, Ontario where I would have found One Eyed Willie's Canadian cousin, Two Toed Thomas' treasure of ancient loonies and toonies, I decided that it was time to get back to the ballpark. Obligatory outfield shot during Braves BP. I thought about going down to the wall and see if I could get the attention of any Braves players, but then I realized that I just don't care about that kind of stuff anymore.


Obviously I'm no expert on AL parks, and my exposure to the Tigers is limited to nationally televised games or the playoffs, which I didn't watch due to my own disdain for post-season baseball (the outfield fly rule, ask any Braves fan), so I guess I never noticed that the Tigers actually manage to utilize the batter's eye as usable media space, and that it's really mostly just this gigantic black tarp.


The statues in left field are really cool, although it looks like Willie Horton has like three arms. They actually do something similar to this in Nationals Park, where I often joke (lamely) about how Frank Howard is the "Goro statue" because they do the same effect, but to me he just has four arms like Goro from Mortal Kombat.


I'm still undecided if I'm a fan of it or not, but it's impossibly not notice Ford Field looming over the ballpark from just about any angle. I'm sure there are worse monstrosities to be always visible, always looming overhead, but I don't know if I'd prefer the neighboring football venue to be inadvertently photo bombing every scene shot I'm trying to take. I know a lot of cities lump their sporting venues close to each other these days, but I can't recall if it's ever been this prevalent in Seattle, Baltimore or Philadelphia.


If I were a regular to Tigers games, this area up in right center would likely be where I'd enjoy watching tons of games.


Also if I were a regular to Tigers games, I could see myself occasionally getting my pre-gaming done at Cheli's. It didn't particularly sound that appealing to me when described via internet comments, but when I saw what kind of scene it turned out to be, it looked like a place where I could take in some suds and chat with the locals. It actually reminds me a lot of the scene outside of Baltimore's Camden Yards, but instead of it being four bars clumped together for one lot, it's all just one singular place.



One thing I noticed that seemed interesting to me was the drastic difference between looking out from one side of the park, compared to the other. Looking out from the main entrance gates was a skyline with lots of tall buildings, and a very city-looking landscape, but facing the other direction is very flat, very almost, suburban looking expanses.


I was completely unaware that this particular weekend was Negro Leagues Weekend. When I kept seeing these unfamiliar logos up on the screen, I kept telling myself how impressed I was that minor league game scheduling and information was done pretty impressively out in Detroit. It wasn't until later that I realized that it was signifying the Atlanta Black Crackers and the Detroit Stars, when I saw all the players taking the field in throwback unis.


I know a lot of Braves fans felt a wave of relief at knowing the Braves were going to avoid Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Me personally, not so much. One of the cliches of being a Braves fan is the absurd belief that the Braves always seem to struggle against less-heralded pitchers, but are inspired to life when facing the likes of top-tier aces like Stephen Strasburg and Roy Halladay. That being said, I would've preferred if hard-throwers like Verlander and Scherzer were scheduled to face the Braves instead of a familiar Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello.


Naturally, if there was anyone I thought was going to stand a chance at breaking through my miserable streak of Braves losses on the road, I figured it would be one of the more young, talented starters over the last few years, in Kris Medlen. But suspect control, and what I assume is falling asleep on less-heralded hitters is what did Medlen in on this particular day. I mean seriously, giving up a home run to Omar Infante? I know he's a former Brave that might have been jilted at getting traded off, but for a guy with a career .397 SLG, this is the second time in recent years he's burned the Braves with a critical two-run home run. And then I realized that the last Braves loss on the road I saw also had Kris Medlen starting, in a loss to the Pirates of all teams.


One thing I really admired was how excellent the turnout was for this game. The Braves might have a strong club this season, but if there's one thing that we get criticized about a lot is the lackluster attendance. It's debated at least five times a year, every year, with the same excuses and rationales thrown around, but as far as the Tigers are concerned, it's always a welcome sight to see such packed stands. Even if Comerica's concourses widths aren't necessarily the biggest, it's still good enough to where people are capable of moving about without too much trouble.

Although I have to say that I'm not the biggest fan of how Comerica puts its endless parade of beer, beer, beer, snack, beer, beer, beer carts all in front of the line of sight from the concourse. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen so many consecutive beer carts on a concourse in all my travels, not to mention that the park employs wandering beermans on top of that. Either that says Detroit really likes to drink, or . . . well that Detroit really likes to drink. Basically, where all Comerica's beer carts are, is standing room only, at Braves games in Atlanta.


But the flip side is that standing room in Detroit can get you all the way down to this kind of view of the game. I actually love that Comerica has a split-level infield seating section, and off the top of my head, is the only one I've seen outside of Atlanta. And the fact that people are allowed to stand in designated standing-allowed areas is also a refreshing welcome, considering the great view available to those standing.

Seriously, it's not exactly PNC Park in Pittsburgh or Busch III in St. Louis, but Detroit gives Comerica Park a very underrated and pleasant skyline in its own right.


This is probably the biggest flaw I saw with Comerica Park in my visit. No men's room on this entire planet should have a line like this one. I know Detroit really likes to drink, but the people who built Comerica should have taken that into consideration and built some more restrooms or something, to prevent this kind of injustice from happening. Seriously, the last time I saw a line at a men's room at a park, it was in Fenway Park, but that place is like 150 years old, and they didn't know better. Thankfully, this didn't really affect me, because the fact that I had to drive back to the airport, I wasn't drinking during this trip, but otherwise, I'd have gone ballistic. Or, walked to the upper deck, where this didn't appear to be an issue.


Justin Upton's solo HR was really the one bright spot for any Braves fan on this day. It's not the same as winning a championship, but the guy is legitimately playing like he wants to be National League MVP this year.


You guys didn't think I'd be able to go the whole game without at least one "haha Prince Fielder is fat" joke, right? Not like it really matters, because he's still a darn good baseball player, in spite of his girth and comical appearance.


Creepy hitman up on parking garage nearby, watching game for free.


One of the highlights of my game experience were these two guys that were completely obliterated drunk, who were chatting with me about just how much they hated Jose Valverde. But these guys were still funny as hell, and in spite of their inebriation, were a large part into my generally positive impression I got from the folks in Detroit, who were all nothing but nice, not the least bit objective to a guy in a Braves hat, and all cool to speak with. But anyway, these guys weren't just saying he sucked because of blown saves in the World Series or anything, but it was all very intricate reasons and such, like why he's now pitching from the windup, or why he touches the mound, or when he introduced the Mariano Rivera-like head bob before setting up. And they were convinced CONVINCED that he was going to blow the save if it remained a one-run lead. But naturally, Omar Infante would strike again, and in something Braves fans are more familiar with, by virtue of a single, extend the lead to a margin that not even Valverde could choke away.


And of course, my contrarian prediction came true instead, and Valverde instead struck out two and had a 1-2-3 inning for the "save." But like I said, being the Braves personal bad luck charm, this wasn't an outcome that I wasn't prepared to see. So I wasn't mad.

Overall, my impressions of Comerica Park are very positive. Aside from the men's room debacle that is, I can't really say anything bad about the place. It's not the greatest park in the world, but it's most definitely leaps and bounds away from being The Cell in Chicago. There's a degree of perfection in its general plainness, it's not hindered by too many chintzy gimmicks, there's plenty of team history sprinkled around the park, and it's a place where fans can watch a quality product, for reasonable cost, and apparently have no shortage of beer options at a moment's notice.

As for my impression of the city of Detroit, it is positive as well. Sure, I got some amusement out of seeing stereotypical razed buildilngs and chain link fences with barbed or razor wire equipped on them, but walking around the city during the day time was a fun experience, and I got to try some good local food, and enjoy perfect weather walking around a place I'd never been to before. All the people I interacted with at the park, be it ushers, park workers, or Tigers fans were all polite and cool and good conversations.



Oh yeah, I found out that Detroit had Tim Horton's around the city, and I got hooked on their Ice Capps on prior trip to Canada, so I about flipped my sh*t when I found out that I could get some in Detroit. But an interesting observation I have is that for whatever reason, Detroit and the surrounding area seems to be completely devoid of highway signs, informing of gas, lodging or food. So when I left downtown, and searched for a Tim Horton's, I realized I couldn't hope to see any sign to let me know of where one might be. Luckilly, we have technology and Google maps. Interesting fact: being a Canadian company, when entering "Tim Horton's" into the query results in Google maps returning results, but in kilometers. So, I was directed that the closest Tim Horton's would be 14 kilometers away, in Deerborn. I almost went ballistic when it led me to an Arab supermarket, before realizing that it was actually inside the Arab supermarket. Color me surprised.

And then right before I returned my rental car, I just so happened to luck into another Timmy's on pure chance, while seeking somewhere to top it off. Let's just say the car wasn't the only thing topped off when I returned it.


Anyway, my day trip to Detroit was a fantastic experience, even though the Braves failed me again on the road, leaving me a miserable 0-9 to when I travel to see them for the first time in new parks. A lot of gratitude goes to you guys here at BYB for the good advice, like parking at/near Bookie's, and to seek out American and Lafayette Coney Islands.

I hope you guys have enjoyed my post, and if anything at all, hopefully it chewed up some time for you while at work. I got no beef with the Tigers, and hope they do well, and that Miguel Cabrera continues to make me look smart by continuing on his career of excellence that I want to say I called back when he was 50 lbs lighter and on the Marlins.

PS: American > Lafayette, and it has nothing to do with the bathrooms.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.