As you already know, we saw three games in Detroit's Comerica Park, the 21st ballpark Allan and I have been to together, and my 22nd overall.
Although I wish the Tigers still played in beautiful, historic Tiger Stadium, Comerica is a lovely downtown ballpark. Like so many of the newer parks, it's oriented to show off its city. Looking at these beautiful backdrops behind the outfield - in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and San Francisco, among other places - it makes me wonder why ballparks were ever built in ugly concrete bowls, or facing parking lots.
For the second game, on Tuesday, we got to the park early to watch the Sox take batting practice. We wandered out to right field where a small crowd was gathered and found a spot at the wall.
Papelbon was standing directly in front of us, holding court for Okajima and another man, possibly Jeemer's translator. Bot was earnestly explaining something to the other two men. There was a diagram in the warning-track dirt that Papelbon was working on, writing with a finger or the toe of his sneakers. We realized that Bot must have drawn the entire thing! It looked something like this:Papelbon would explain something, then circle a number, erase another number and replace it with a different one. Talk, circle the 6, erase the 8, draw a 5, talk, circle the 5, erase the 2...
We were close enough that we should have, would have heard every word. But of course there was music blaring over the loudspeakers - goddess forbid we could just enjoy the sounds of baseball - so we only caught a word or two. We think it might have been related to a card game or to gambling. Does this look familiar to anyone? It was shaped like the US interstate highway signs. And it said "WELCOME" in the middle!
Whatever it was, Bot was completely engrossed in it. He seemed utterly oblivious to the fans, batting practice, and anything else around him, just focused on his diagram and his animated explanation.
While Professor Bot was delivering this lecture, batting-practice dongs were flying over our heads, and fly balls were landing in front of the gathered pitchers. Manny hit a few mega-dongs to dead center. Varitek and LBJ each hit a few bombs, too, right over our heads. Lips was tossing to Aardsma; he seemed to be playing with different pitches. MDC and Craig Hansen were also standing around, gabbing.
Nearby fans were calling out to the players to retrieve the balls and toss them over. David Aardsma tossed a couple, then signed baseballs for several kids, including a very young Tigers fan. This little boy was in his dad's arm, and he was wearing a glove bigger than his head. Aardsma tossed the ball gently to the dad, who caught it with his free hand. Then dad threw the ball back to Aardsma. Dad put his hand in the glove with his son, Aardsma tossed the ball again, and the kid (and dad) caught the ball.
Jeemer took a ball and Sharpie from a young fan, turned around so his back was to us, and was writing for a long time. We assumed he was signing in both English and Japanese. When we saw the kid's baseball, that's exactly what it was, including "GO SOX!".
Jeemer walked over to a little girl, who was Japanese or of Japanese descent, and said a few words to her in his native language. She was too shy to answer, so her mom helped her give her pink baseball to Jeemer. Jeemer did the same thing - turned away and wrote for a few minutes - then gave her back the ball. Mom helped daughter say Arigato to Okajima, then we all admired the baseball, which was autographed in both English and Japanese. The little girl was totally overwhelmed.
After that, Jeemer retrieved another ball, which he tossed over to an Asian-American Red Sox fan, a woman to my right. Allan stuck out his hand and caught it, then immediately gave it to the woman next to me. She lit up with delight and thanked Allan.
And this whole time, Papelbon was still writing in the warning-track dirt - about 15 feet away from us!
In my travels, I've learned that every trip has a regret: something you dreamed of seeing that is closed for renovation, or the ferry has stopped running for the winter, or you realize it's a three-day journey and you only have one day left. And even short road baseball road trips will have a regret.
This regret? We didn't bring our camera that day.
Stupid, I know. We had taken pictures the previous day, and our seats were in the upper deck (almost the last row), so we thought, why bother.
Why bother? Because you're going to batting practice, you dopes.
Oh well. Hopefully this gave you a feel for what we saw. More pictures from the trip are here.