Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tigers visit Toledo

Today I attended the first ever Detroit Tigers vs Toledo Mud Hens game at Fifth Third Field.  The last time the Tigers played the Toledo Mud Hens was 12 years ago.  I was pretty excited about seeing my first game of the year.  I was hoping to get in early for a tour but I had to drop my cousins off at the airport yesterday and didn’t respond to an email from the Toledo Mud Hens until after 5pm.  I got to the park around 9:30am and there was a line at every gate.  Gates opened right at 10am and everybody rushed to the first base sideline to try and see their favorite players and get autographs.

I was standing right on the wall for about 20 minutes.  I was enjoying watching the Mud Hens take batting practice and seeing the Tigers players make their way on to the field. Johnny Peralta came out on the field and was really enjoying himself.  He was “whoooo” to the crowd that was “whoooo’ing him right back.   Around 10:20 an usher came over to the section I was standing in and told everybody that didn’t have a ticket for that section that they needed to leave.  He informed us that no players would be signing autographs today.  I walked back a few rows and continued to watch the warm ups.  My attention was drawn to Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.  They threw the ball back and forth and were the first ones to step into the batting cages.  Fielder, Cabrera, and Boesch were crushing the balls over the fence into the crowds of fans.  Right by where I was standing Alex Avila was warming up Rick Porcello.  Once they were warmed up Avila came over and started signing autographs.  I loved seeing the excitement of the little kids once their baseballs, cards, or shirts were signed.  One thing I did not like was the grown men pushing their way to the front of the crowd to have their things signed.  One gentleman had several bats in cases that he pulled out and had signed.  I don’t think that this fella was having them signed for his own personal collection.  I can’t justify ever cutting in front of a little kid, let alone to have a bat signed that you’re probably going to sell on eBay.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get every players autograph.  When I was in fourth grade my teacher, Mrs. Koppus, was a huge Tigers fan.  We had to write a story and I wrote a story about how I hung out with my grandfather, Cecil Fielder, and Prince Fielder.  I don’t remember all of the details but they had a house with trap doors and we were playing in them.  Nearly 20 years later I am standing yards away from Prince Fielder and it would be amazing to get his autograph but, I would never jump in front of any child who was seeking his autograph. 

I decided to do a lap around the park since I still had plenty of time to kill before the first pitch.  I made my way behind home plate and decided to get closer and take a seat.  I was only a few rows up from the net as I see Jim Leyland wave to somebody in the crowd and they came right over to where I was and chatted.  Jim Leyland is originally from the Toledo area so it only made sense that he would see some old friends.  I started chatting with a gentleman who was sitting in the row in front of me.  We discussed baseball and our excitement for the upcoming season.  I told the man about the journey I’m taking and he told me he would love to do the same someday.  He asked me about my life plans after I’m done with my trip so I informed him.  In doing so I had mentioned that my dad was a Sherriff’s deputy in the area and he told me he used to be a cop in California.    He had mentioned several times in the conversation that he was from California so I asked him what had brought him to Toledo, Ohio.  His response was a very nonchalant my son plays.  I asked him who his son was and he informed me that his son was Doug Fister.  I asked Larry Fister how it was to have a son playing pro ball.  He told me how excited he gets, how proud he is, and how surreal it can be when his son gets talked about on Sportscenter and other sports shows.  Larry asked me when I would be in California and I gave him the general time frame.  He told me that if I needed a place to stay when I am in his neck of the woods that I could stay in an extra bedroom.  Are you serious?  A professional baseball player’s dad just offered me a place to stay and we had only been talking for half an hour.  This is one thing that impresses me over and over again.  The baseball community as a whole has been incredibly generous to me during the stages of this trip.  I love that people can be so kind and caring.  One of the many reason I love being an American.  I gave Larry Fister my contact information and we parted ways. 

I made my way around the ballpark and hung out just below the flags that were being flown at half-mast.  Recently, somebody from the Mud Hens organization had passed away and the flags were honoring him.  I hadn’t eaten yet and was starting to get hungry.  I looked at my phone and it was ten minutes until the first pitch.  I decided to put off food for a little while longer.  It was time for the National Anthem and a local boy scout troop escorted the colors to the pitcher’s mound.  The crowd was asked to remove their caps for the Star Spangled Banner.  Two gentlemen in front of me did not remove their hats.  This is one thing that infuriates me every time I see it.  I said in a very controlled voice “take of your hat”.  The one man obliged me and took his off.  I gave it another few lines and he was still wearing his hat.  I tapped the man who had taken his hat off and asked him to please have his friend remove his cap.  He told his friend to take it off and he responded with “I don’t want to” but he did anyways.  I was shocked at that response but I just let it go.

I watched the Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch strike out followed up with a fly out by Cabrera.   The grumbling in my stomach was getting rather loud so I decided to get a bite to eat.  I went over to one of the concession stands called the Hen & Hound eatery & pub.  The line was very long but it seemed there was a long line at every turn.  The TV’s in the concession stand were not turned on so every time you heard a roar from the crowd you had to turn around and attempt to see what you missed.  I waited about 20 minutes to order a “Muddy Dog” (hot dog, chili, cheese, onions) for $4.25 and a tall Bud Light for $7.50.  I gave the concession attendant a $20 bill and he informed me that he didn’t have any change.  The line was held up as it appeared nobody was going for change.  The attendant started helping people who had exact change or people who cut it close enough not to care about the change as I stood by the side.  I stood there near ten minutes before my change had arrived.  Minus the 25cents that never showed up but at that point I simply didn’t care. 

I ate my hotdog and found a spot to watch the game.  I watched for several innings and noticed that people had already started to leave the park.  I made my way all the way down the 3rd base line and found a few empty seats on the end so I sat down.  I watched the game, relaxed, basking in the spring sun.  I noticed an older gentleman standing near me wearing a Vietnam Veterans hat.  I walked over and started talking to him.  His name is Jerry Brzuchalski and served two years with a Cav division in the Army.  He spent one year in Vietnam.  I asked him if he spent time talking with his buddies about all the things they wanted to when they got home.  I did not get the answer I expected.  Jerry told me that he never really thought about that.  He just knew that he would return to Toledo and continue to work at the Jeep plant like he had before he was drafted, and that’s all he really wanted.  I had a great conversation with Jerry, we exchanged stories, and I went on my way. 

The cell reception at Fifth Third Field is like a black hole for modern technology.  I tried to tweet, check in to foursquare, and update my Facebook status with no avail.  My phone spent most of the afternoon searching for a signal and just killing my battery.  After the 5th inning I received a text from Tammy Esper who is the marketing coordinator for the Toledo Mud Hens informing me that she would still like to give me a tour if I wanted it.  She told me that there wasn’t much I would be able to access because of the game but I could still see some areas I hadn’t seen already.  I met up with her during the 9th inning and she took me upstairs to where the suites and press boxes are.  I got to see the TV crews working through a window and it was very cool.  When I recently took a tour of Wrigley field their press boxes were completely empty so it was neat seeing one in use.  After that she took me to see “The Roost” which is an area of the park that you can rent for parties.  This section of the park is in the corner and offers an excellent view of the park.  I talked to Tammy for a while about various topics and thanked her for her time.  At each ballpark I will be collecting a post card to send to a good friend of mine so I went down to the gift shop and got one, and then made my way down the block to my car.

All in all I had a great day at fifth third field.  It was a bit crowded and the lines were long but it was way busier then I had ever seen it before due to the visiting Tigers.  It’s my hometown park and I love going to games there. 

Tomorrow starts the official season.  I’m excited about getting this adventure rolling.  I’ve never been to an Opening Day at Comerica Park and I just know it’s going to be a great day.
View Pictures Here
Keep On Smiling- It’s Baseball Season!


  1. I now love Doug Fister because of his dad. Very cool story RJ. You are going to have a fabulous trip.

    I like that you kept your patience about the man who refused to remove his hat for the anthem. I totally agree that it is disrespectful, but at the same time, it is part of the country we live in- the right now to remove your hat for whatever your reasons. I ma disagree with him, but it is still his right.

    Looking forward to hearing more tales as you go along...

  2. Sounds like your journey is off to a wonderful start. I'm looking forward to reading the updates.