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Upgraded scoreboard also finds fans at Comerica Park

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Tigers fans were not deterred by blustery snow, only briefly interrupted by the sun, as the game began. Many mingled around the ballpark throughout the first innings, picking up roasted nuts and hot dogs to go with their frosty Oberon beers.

In the offseason, the Tigers upgraded Comerica Park’s scoreboard, which grew by 9,500 square feet and 11.7 million pixels.

Detroit native Earl Rogers, 30, has been going to games at Comerica since its opening. While there have been a lot of upgrades in the decades since then, he thought the new scoreboard looked great.

Rogers was attending the game with Drina Davis, who agreed the new board was awesome.

“(I) love it,” Davis, 36, said. “You can actually see without squinting.”

Friday was Detroit transplant Maggi Prigge’s first opening day since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and she had heard that the new scoreboard was the second largest in Major League Baseball.

“I think it looks awesome!” Prigge said. “It’s super cool.”

She is hoping the Lions’ good vibes that carried them deep into the NFL playoffs will rub off on the Tigers this season.

William Schultz has gone to the last several opening day games with his friend Kevin Knipstein, who travels there from Chicago. This year they brought Jessica Dejohn for her first opening day experience.

While Schultz hadn’t really had a chance to look at the new scoreboard very much, he noted there seemed to be a lot of information on it.

“I will say… I’ve walked around the park a lot, so it’s very easy to see what’s going on from a lot more perspectives,” Schultz said.

Excitement, family traditions collide

A wave of Tigers fans poured into Comerica Park after the gates opened, and the crowds grew ahead of the first inning.

Anticipation mounted even as weather conditions rotated between sunshine, cloud cover and light snow that wouldn’t stick.

Some fans said they traveled thousands of miles just to be there.

Howard Levy flew in from Carlsbad, California to watch the Tigers’ opening game against the Oakland A’s, he said.

Originally a Detroit native, Levy flew in on Thursday mainly drawn by his brother-in-law’s legendary lobster, shrimp and lamb chop tailgate party, he said. Levy is also visiting his mother in the city, who will soon celebrate her 106th birthday, he said.

“We love Detroit,” Levy said. “It’s great to be here, because the Detroit fans are the best in the world.”

Daniel Metzger, of Dallas, agreed.

The 65-year-old moved to Texas 45 years ago but still regularly returns to Michigan for big games, he said.

“My heart is Detroit,” Metzger said. “I love the Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings. I’ve got a big man cave with all kinds of Detroit paraphernalia.”

Beth Stirzinger, 69, has been to every Tigers opening day game since 1994, except for the one 2000, and has held season tickets since 2006. She calls the season tickets her “summer vacation,” and said her favorite part of opening day is when the announce the lineup.

“It really hasn’t changed, because just the atmosphere, the vibe of everybody coming out — this is such a party town,” the New Baltimore resident said. “Not everybody, all… the other teams, have a party like Detroit parties.”

Lansing parents Tracy and Jay Gerow brought their 7-year-old son Landon to his first Opening Day game on Friday.

Prior to the first pitch Landon had already managed to get former Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe’s autograph, and said he was hoping to see a home run by Javier Báez.

“Now that he’s old enough to come we’re going to come as a family and make it the new tradition,” said Jay Gerow, who has been to at least ten opening day games. “It’s a unique experience, you know, it’s kind of its own party.”

At 5 years old, Sawyer McKinney was attending his fourth opening day game Friday with his parents John and Nicole. The family traveled across the state from Grand Rapids.

“It’s just the start of spring and summer,” said John, 50, who has been attending Tigers games for 40 years. “He (Sawyer) loves it and every time we go somewhere and he sees the D, he’s like ‘Tigers!'”

The family does a trip every year to see the Tigers play in a different stadium across the country, Nicole McKinney said. This year they’ll head to Chicago to watch the Tigers take on the Cubs this summer.

For some fans, like 7-year-old Stella Matheson, opening day is about more than just the baseball. Matheson’s favorite part of opening day was actually the rides offered inside Comerica Park. Her family holds season tickets so Stella is familiar with Tigers games, but Friday was her first opening day experience.

For her mom, Miranda Matheson, it’s about the atmosphere and energy of the festivities.

“I just love being in the city when it’s full of energy like this,” Matheson, 42, said. “Obviously (I’m) hoping that we have a good season this year — better than last.”

One-year-old Scout Squires attended his first opener last year at just a few months old. The toddler, sitting atop his father David Squires’ shoulders, was smiling on Friday despite the cold, watching warmups from the stands above right field.

“Honestly this is our team,” said David Squires, of Fowlerville. “We brought her daughter said she was a baby as well. We brought him since he was a baby. It’s just kind of been a tradition rain or shine.”

David, 33, first met his wife Karlee through being a Tigers fan. The first pitch is always the best part of Opening Day, he said.

Detroit Tigers fans don their best gear to start season

Southgate couple Tony and Pam Rinna call themselves “extreme fans” of the Tigers, going so far as to hire a professional makeup artist every Opening Day for the last 15 years. The pair’s Tiger-inspired face paint has become an opening day staple, with fans stopping them to take selfies as they made their way into the stadium. 

“It’s fun to entertain people and be here and cheer on the Tigers,” Pam Rinna, 66, said. 

They will be attending every game of the series this weekend, and Tony, also 66, is hopeful the Tigers will make playoffs — possibly even finishing in first place. 

Opening Day should be a national holiday, said Chuck Johnson, 50, of Brownstown, who has been attending the game with his 14-year-old son Charlie for the last three years. 

“This is a great thing, right? This is something that I think every father and son should do together,” he said. “This is a great time for us just to bond and stay close together.”

Even if you don’t go to the game, the experience is incredible, Johnson added. 

Charlie was excited to actually watch the game in person, though. With confidence, he predicted a 161 and 1 season and division title for the Tigers.

Charlie plays shortstop and was testing his fastball speed in Grand Circus Park before the gates opened at Comerica Friday morning.

Chuck and Charlie aren’t the only fans with opening day traditions. Carolina Fuentes, of Canton, and Alex Robles, of Oak Park, can’t quite remember when they first started coming to the game clad from head to toe in Tigers onesies, but it was at least 12 years ago. They typically meet up with a pack of fans who have been friends for years.

“Everybody initiated themselves by buying the onesie,” Fuentes said. “We’ve had anywhere from 20 tigers all the way down to, I think there’s five of us today. … But we’re all still friends.”

For Fuentes, Opening Day marks the official kickoff to spring. 

“It’s the tradition, there’s no other words, you just do it because it’s tradition,” Fuentes said. 

Tailgating fans up and down Woodward Avenue may have been greeted by Bobby, the Detroit Ambassadog, decked out in rainbow sunglasses and a Tigers hat. His owner Tom McDevitt, a lifelong Tigers fan, said Bobby’s main job is to put smiles on people’s faces.

“(The season’s) off to a good start, so hopefully we can keep up that momentum,” McDevitt said. “But it’s a long season. So, time will tell but hoping to make the playoffs.”

Bobby, also a supporter of the Tigers, was treated to spare hot dogs and bacon by tailgating fans all morning.

Tigers fans descend on Detroit early for prep

Friday dawned with an annual tradition functioning as an unofficial holiday: the home opener for the Detroit Tigers.

The Detroit Tigers are facing the Oakland Athletics after opening the season on the road and compiling a 5-1 record.

Baseball fever poured into downtown Detroit’s streets Friday morning, as fans and cars streamed into the area ahead of the game.

Most fans were up before sunrise Friday just to honor longstanding opening day traditions.

“We got up at 5 a.m., and we got here at 7,” said Renee Paul, 43, of Southgate. “Just great weather and a good ballgame.”

Paul, alongside friends and family, stayed overnight at MGM Grand Detroit just to make sure they could get a decent tailgating spot by Comerica Park off Woodward Avenue, she said.

Friday marks Paul’s tenth year attending opening day festivities, adding to a trove of lifelong Tigers memories for the Metro Detroit native, she said.

“There’s nothing better than being downtown and the energy down here during opening day,” 30-year-old Will Osborn told The Detroit News. “It’s just a great time all around. It provides a lot of money to all the local businesses. I mean, where else would you want to be?”

The Auburn Hills resident woke up at 6 a.m. to snag a tailgating spot near Comerica Park, where friends and family were setting up music, games and pre-marinated beef bulgogi barbeque for their eighth opening day in a row since 2016, he said.

Across the lot, other fans were busy putting their own spin on game-day meal prep.

Adan Donias put on barbacoa and chorizo to cook just before 9 a.m. at his favorite spot: a parking spot just yards away from one of the stadium gates.

The 49-year-old Flint resident hoisted a Mexican flag alongside a Detroit Tigers one high above his tent as part of a six-year tradition honoring two cultures he’s proud to be part of.

Donias just missed ticket sales before opening game seats sold out, he said. He and his family still planned to take advantage of their premier spot and cook up a tailgating feast, he said.

“If anything, we’re going to walk around Detroit to some spots that have TVs to watch the game,” Donias said.

With Lions star Penei Sewell’s first pitch still hours away and fans waiting on gates to open at 10:30 a.m., Donias was happy to stay put meanwhile, he said.

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