I have very few memories from before I was six years old. I remember my first plane ride, I remember my grandfather when he was still able to walk around, and I remember my first baseball game. It was Tiger Stadium, against the Kansas City Royals, and Bo Jackson was playing Center Field. It started a lifelong obsession and love, which has only gotten stronger as I have gotten older.
I don’t know if its the draw of being outside on a summer day, the statistics, the fact each stadium has its own dimensions, personality and character, or the specialization of players, but I was hooked from day one. A common misconception about sports in Michigan is U of M Football, the Detroit Lions, or the Detroit Red Wings are king (I might concede to one of those). However, the fact of the matter is when its summer, the Tigers reign supreme, plain and simple.
In the summer a popular weekend and holiday destination is “Up North” (the boundary is different for each person, but I consider it anywhere north of Clare). At every cottage, party store (convenience store for non-Michiganders), and on every boat with a radio, the Tigers game is on. The Upper Peninsula might be Green Bay Packer territory when it comes to football, but you would be hard-pressed to find anything but Tigers fans living up there. Whether they were setting the record for most losses in a season or a heavy favorite for a World Series, the Tigers are always on. It started with Ernie Harwell, and has continued today with Dan Dickerson who has taken over the monumental task with great success.
(Ernie statue w/ my buddy Jeff)
Although, the Tigers will forever be my favorite team, its the sport as a whole that’s gotten me. I have been to a lot Timbers games since moving to Portland, and had a great time at each. However, when I learned they booted a AAA baseball team out of that stadium I was very disappointed. If I lived within walking distance of a AAA baseball team season tickets would have been a no-brainer. I can go to just about any baseball game, at any level.
I think my love has been fueled by my ability to make it to different parks, and not just when the Tigers are in town. I have been to six major league parks, and will be hitting my seventh in about a week when I am in Cincinnati. I am also considering a weekend trip to Denver to see the Rockies at some point, and planning a Bay Area trip next year so I can see the A’s and Giants back-to-back. When you get the opportunity to sit down and watch a game without any rooting interest, you really enjoy the athleticism, strategy and ability of all involved.
I have even begun to buy apparel of other teams. For instance, I buy a hat of every team whose park I have visited, unless they are playing the Tigers of course. I also like finding rarities and jerseys that are not as prevalent anymore. I found an Atlanta Braves jersey at a thrift store in Minneapolis with a “30 Years in Atlanta” patch (picture below) for $10 and almost lost my mind, and have a Montreal Expos Gary Carter jersey next on my list of acquisitions. I also hope to catch games in Japan and South Korea one day.
(Thrift Store Steal)
I may never be able to pin point my love of baseball. I think its an amalgamation of everything I have discussed, and that first game I was able to attend with my father and brother. In fact one of my favorite games was the second Tigers game with my dad in 2005 on Father’s Day, a walk-off win against the San Francisco Giants, hit by then newly acquired 2B Placido Polanco. Now I have been at a few walk-off wins since then, but I know I couldn’t tell you as much detail about those.
(Father’s Day 2005)
When I was living in Australia in 2010 a few friends and I joked about getting tattoos spontaneously. The more we joked, the more we began to seriously consider it. Soon after the joking started we were looking for tattoo parlors which took walk-ins. Each person was quietly and openly brainstorming ideas. I did not have much money at the time, so I knew it had to be a simple, one-color design. One image popped into my head: the Olde English D. Up to that point I had sat through an improbable World Series run, a 119 loss season, and a decade of futility where I watched every game I could on UPN 50 when they never even sniffed a .500 record. I heard how Jeff Weaver was the next Denny MacLean, Gabe Kapler was the next Al Kaline and watched every bad move Randy Smith made (Google that one Dombrowski slappy’s because I know you have no idea who that is). It remains today the only tattoo I have, not so much because I haven’t wanted another one, but I haven’t been able to decide on anything else I knew I would never regret.