Detroit Tigers fans embrace the chilly opening day and are rewarded with victory
Detroit — Baseball returned to Detroit a week later than usual, but it was still cold.
Then again, the Tigers could play their first game of the year in mid-July in Death Valley and it would still be cold.
That’s because, as any fan will tell you, the Tigers’ opening day is supposed to be cold.
It’s also meant to be loud and hopeful and peppy as you want to use that word and on Friday it was check, check and check.
“I don’t want sunny weather,” Bingham Farms fan Zack Fredericks said of the weather. “It wouldn’t be the Tigers.”
The Tigers beat the White Sox 5-4 in a win from behind but, while it was stunning, it was perhaps the least important part of the day.
Opening day is a celebration of the return of a sport that has bonded generations of families, fans said. It announces a period of the year synonymous with resurrection. It’s a hodgepodge of baseball, nostalgia, celebration and religious experience.
And you thought it was just about drinking beer.
Andy Heller of Rochester Hills, who was drinking Bud Light in the left field bleachers, started bringing his son to the home opener just like his dad brought him. In the Heller family, it’s an unofficial holiday from work and school.
“He loves it,” Heller said of 9-year-old Tony. “He’s more excited than me.”
The talkative kid had talked about the game all week, his dad said. He was still chatting when a reporter bade farewell to the family in round five.
“I believe they’re going to win,” Tony said. “They have good players. I also believe that the Lions are good.
He didn’t know which of the two Detroit teams was better. He decided they were pretty much the same.
full of hope
The cacophony that surrounds Opening Day does not wait for the first pitch. Friday, as usual, started the morning with rock music blaring from the sheds of Eastern Market to the three floors of The Old Shillelagh bar in Greektown.
It’s hard to talk about the Tigers in the parking lot of the Tin Roof bar. The music was so loud it was hard to think of the team, even though the stadium was right across the street.
Given the song being played, it was easier to watch Bob Seger in the back seat of his ’60 Chevy. The singer of “Night Moves,” the song blaring from the loudspeakers, is originally from Detroit and is a big fan of its sports teams.
Kalamazoo’s Kathy Baker fought through the din at the Tin Roof to explain the importance of opening day. She said it has become a tradition for her longtime friends to have a get-together around the game. (Miguel Cabrera fans, assemble!)
“It’s funny. It’s an excuse to have a good time, not that we need it,” said Baker, who wore a Bengal tiger jumpsuit.
Another fan was dressed as Abe Lincoln, mixing up his vacation. (We’ll get to that later.)
Baker’s pal echoed his sentiments, saying the joy surrounding the game made it a perfect time to reunite the gang. At least that’s what she had said.
Like Opening Day Past and Opening Day Future, Friday was full of hope.
It doesn’t take much to raise the hopes of sports fans, especially after the Tigers’ last five lean years. The team acquired several players during the off-season, and while they’re not stars, they’re better than the people they replaced.
Also, one of those players, Javier Baez, who is known for hitting any ball in his zip code, pitched the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Taylor’s Tom Norris, standing in the lobby near third base, ran the numbers and thinks the Tigers can win their division.
He admitted that wishful thinking may have been part of his calculations. He may also have raved about the dramatic win, in which the Tigers trailed the mighty Sox 3-0 at one point.
“A lot must be fine,” he said. “It’s possible. They could surprise us.
What might also surprise him is that some of the squad’s announced youngsters are having a stellar season, he said. He estimates that rookies are several years away from mastering the game.
One of the rooks, Spencer Torkelson, had a tough day, going 0-4 with two strikeouts and dropping a foul ball.
But why dwell on the negative? Baseball is back and the Tigers have won. Here are some scenes from Opening Day, one of the most enjoyable days in sports:
Abraham Lincoln joins the party
Ron Carley, a professional Lincoln anchor, said he was at the ballpark for the game like everyone else.
“It’s opening day,” he said. “It is a party.”
People stopped him to take selfies with the ersatz commander-in-chief. He said he comes to the stadium almost every day at noon to take pictures in front of his giant stone tiger sentries.
“I think I’m the only professional Lincoln presenter left in Michigan.”
happy to be outside
Emily and Frank Pizzo, both 62, from south Lyon, said they hunkered down each opening day at the same location in a parking lot a stone’s throw from the baseball stadium. They’ve been doing it for 10 to 15 years.
They arrived at 8 a.m. on Friday to set up an awning, chairs, television, grill, snacks and drinks for family and friends who joined them later.
“We hardly ever come to games during the season, but we come on the big day just to feel the vibe,” Emily said. “It’s just amazing and we love it.”
Despite the large spread, furniture was actually less this year, Frank said. In years past they have provided a band and a porta-potty.
He said he was happy to get out after being locked down during the pandemic.
“It’s just time to get out,” he said. “You have to live your life.”
Staff writers Charles E. Ramirez and Amelia Benavides-Colón contributed.