Major League Ballparks: No. 12 Comerica Park
With Fenway Park celebrating its 100th anniversary and Dodger Stadium its 50th this year, our editor Matt Hurst, who was a baseball beat writer for four seasons in the mid-2000′s, takes a look at the ballparks he’s worked at in his life and ranks them from worst to first. We continue the series with No. 12 – Comerica Park. To see the previously reviewed ballparks, click here.
When I originally wrote this list, I had Comerica listed a lot lower. Then, as I started writing and coming up with a basic sense of criteria – the overall “feel” of the stadium, press box, press meal, ease of getting to and from the clubhouses, the clubhouse itself – Comerica Park kept climbing the ladder.
Don’t get me wrong, I did not like traveling to Detroit. It’s a sad city. We had a day game there once and I had a rental car (Detroit’s airport is at least a half-hour from downtown) so I took advantage of the last remaining hours of daylight and drove around. I was staying in Dearborn (reasons why coming a bit later) so I wasn’t in a rush to get back to suburbia and in neighborhoods right near downtown Detroit there are massive amounts of shuttered, foreclosed homes and I had a feeling that if a bomb went off in some of these neighborhoods no one would know the difference.
The surrounding areas of Comerica Park aren’t awful. Ford Field, home of the Lions, is right next door. There are some restaurants and bars a stone’s throw away, but anything just outside of that radius is scary.
However, Comerica Park is not a bad little place to watch a ballgame. Now.
When the stadium first opened the fences were about 600 feet from home plate. The stadium is much fairer now for both hitters and pitchers and it’s a better place to watch a game because of it.
And, to be able to watch it from the press box is not so bad, either. The press area for writers is not overly large, but with stadium seating and in the second level, everyone has a good seat. Plus, it’s always nice to see John Lowe, who has covered the Tigers for the Detroit Free-Press for, what seems like, ever and is always a good guy to have around in his suit and his large hat.
The press meal, like others in the Midwest as we’ve detailed many times before, is awful. Even the breakfast before day games. How hard is it to cook eggs? Apparently, very.
Rumor has it that the scoreboard was positioned incorrectly down the left field line. Looking at pictures, it’s easy to believe that.
At least one-third of the scoreboard is covered by the left field upper deck overhang, making it impossible to see part of the scoreboard from certain parts of the ballpark. With all the money invested into ballparks, scoreboards, etc. you’d think the contractors would be able to figure out exactly where a scoreboard – arguably the most important part of a stadium for the fans – should be placed.
The underground tunnels … that sounds weird, like we’re in The Goonies … leading to the clubhouses and the field level were always some of the cleanest I came across. Most of them in ballparks are just standard concrete and a coat of paint and Comerica is no different. But the Tigers cleaning crew must have been trained at Disneyland. I was always astounded by it. It’s little things like this that I remember. Weird, I know.
Every ballpark has some level of security guard at the front of each clubhouse. It’s basic Cover Your Ass sort of stuff so that if someone is not supposed to be in the tunnels, they can prevent them from getting into the area where the players dress. John was in charge of the visiting clubhouse. Rather than trying to log everyone each afternoon before the game and each night after the game, he would get the traveling beat writer’s Baseball Writer’s of America card number and then take it upon himself to log you for the series.
Then, he would address everyone by name. This was a guy who was very good at his job. The security guards at Angel Stadium didn’t even know my name and I was there at least 65 times a year. John knew us and we saw him, at most, six times a season.
The clubhouse itself was rather bland and the manager’s office was incredibly small and without furniture. This was problematic at times because the manager’s chair was always so low and you felt like you were hovering more than you normally felt you were. The coolest thing in the lair of the clubhouse was a small little device that looked like a Medieval torture device.
Apparently, the roundish metal thing with the sign that said not to touch it because it was hot, was a hat stretcher, hugely important for players who sweat in the heat and therefore, their hats shrink a little.
Comerica Park, as a whole, felt like it had decent enough energy and whenever I left, it felt a little more than just one out of 162. Certain places feel that way and Comerica was one of them.