Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Some thoughts on the Tigers' game The Ford has just returned from:

1.) Wednesday was like the bizarro Monday.
Instead of a game featuring the first-place Tigers coming off a strong showing, packed with drunk fans on a sunny day with tickets nearly impossible to get, The Ford got to attend a game with the second-place Tigers coming off a vaguely disappointing showing on a rainy day with tickets at half price.
Pretty sweet, actually. The Ford will take a $6 ticket for the first row of the upper deck (normally $12, but for some reason -- The Ford suspects it was the fear of a sub-5,000 crowd -- it was half price. Printed on the ticket and all.) any day of the week.

2.) Ushers.
Rather than start out in his assigned seat, which wasn't that bad to begin with, The Ford tried to sneak into the front row of the seats in the upper deck behind home plate, in a section missing an usher. Of course, when there's approximately 7 people in the upper deck, crowd management is not exactly a numbers game.
Naturally, three minutes before the game started, an usher approaches The Ford and asks to see his ticket.
No harm, no foul, The Ford returned to his assigned seat.
But this brought up one of The Ford's peeves. Bust him for swiping a seat if you want to, but for the love of God, hold people at the stairs during an inning. There is NOTHING more annoying than to be focused on the action on the field, only to have to stand up as some schmucks squeeze by you. Especially when there's three empty rows behind you that could be used for lateral moves within the section.

3.) One dumb thing.
OF course, the best part about getting bounced by the usher was probably that it gave The Ford an excuse to return to the concession stand where he'd just paid $4.50 for a large Dew. (Did The Ford mention that the CoPa's a haven for Pepsi lovers? Do the Dew, baby, cause that's the only way The Ford's getting up for a spread of 1 p.m. games over the next week.)
Yes, he'd paid the $4.50 for an oh-so-necessary Dew, and then walked away without said beverage, annoyed by having to wait 3 minutes for the cashier to make change from a 20. Yes, The Ford understands you have no quarters. With 2 minutes until the game starts, The Ford is willing to GIVE you quarters in exchange for a spare $1 bill. He can always find a place to put a $1 bill, y'know?
Luckily, with only 12 people in the upper deck, The Ford had no problem claiming his pop upon his return to the stand.

4.) Big Juan.
Holy crap. Juan Uribe, the White Sox shortstop, is listed at 220 pounds? Granted, he's 6 feet tall, but 220? That's a lot of shortstop, especially considering his sudden outburst of power the past two seasons. Hmm. Roid you very much?
(Really, who you you rather see take roids? Who's more harmful to baseball? Barry Bonds, who already had Hall-of-Fame skills/credentials? Or Juan Uribe, who's essentially a .250/10/60 hitter? That's the sorta brain teaser that'll stump The Ford for years.)

5.) Bigger Jim.
Holy crap, part two. Jim Thome is listed at 6-4, 245 pounds, numbers startlingly similar to The Ford's dimensions.
From now on, The Ford is to be described as "Thome-sized."
It's always a pleasant surprise when you find a pro athlete you're shaped like. Makes you feel like, had a few things broken differently, you'd be there, and they'd be here.
The Ford wouldn't mind pulling down some 40HR cheddar, y'know?
Although "Thus Sayeth The Thome" doesn't have quite the same ring.
Hmm. Maybe "Thome, from me." would be a better title. We'll keep working on it.

6. Big park.
It's nice to see The Ford's not the only person who's stumped by the CoPa's, um, spacious dimensions.
Thome CRUSHED a ball deep to center in the first inning, flying 415 feet as the crowd groan/roared, only to have it drop easily into the centerfielder's glove. Welcome back to the AL. (Of course, Thome lined a pitch into the right field stands, eight rows deep, the next time up. Welcome to the CoPa. Somebody learned his lesson.)
Throughout the game, almost anything hit to center drew a cheer from the crowd, before they realized that hitting the ball 400 feet doesn't get you anything but a walk back to the dugout at the CoPa.
This is not a new stadium, either. This is year 6 of the park. Shouldn't somebody be able to tell what's a home run by now?

7. Name that Tiger
The Ford has long used The Official Blog to stump for improved nicknames.
Obviously, someone is listening, since Chris Shelton's stunning opening to the season (Today, it was homer No. 6, a mammoth 2-run shot to center that everyone truly KNEW was gone.) has earned him the moniker, "Red Pop," a reference to his bright red/orange hair, his power stroke, and the most popular variety of Faygo, a Detroit pop company.
Really, it's the perfect storm of nicknames, where everything comes together in one amazing package.
So, when Shelton comes up in the sixth inning with a man on third, what does The Ford yell?
"C'mon, Shelly!"
"Shelly" is not a nickname. It's how first-base coaches address players they can't address as "Bobby." (The Ford likes to believe names ending in -y are the only ones first-base coaches can pronounce around the giant wad of gum, tobacco or sunflower seeds in their cheeks.)
And yet, somehow, "Shelly," and not "Red Pop" came out of The Ford's mouth.
Thus did The Ford complete the inevitable transition from boy to man to first-base coach.

8. Who's your Tiger?
So, the Tigers' marketing campaign this season is a series of commercials lauding individual players, with the slogan, "Who's your Tiger?" The Ford's early leader was Jeremy Bonderman, just to show some Washington-native love.
And then Brandon Inge came up to bat.
It's not so much that he's good. If anything, he's just slightly above-average, the type of Bobby Higginson-esque player that bad franchises fall in love with and then can't figure out why he's not earning $8 million a year in year 5 of his contract. Not bad, just not the guy you build the franchise around. There's a reason he was hitting ninth today.
But man, any dude who picks Skee-Lo's "I Wish" as his introductory music is, at least for a little while, The Official Tiger of The Official Blog of The Ford.
Most of the Tigers had pretty decent music selections -- plenty of salsa/Latino rap from the Hispanic players, and no rock/rap-metal from the rednecks in the lineup -- but ... Skee-Lo?
The Ford, too, wishes he was a bit taller. Wishes he was a baller. Wishes he had a girl who looked good. He would call her.
To know that Mr. Inge also harbors these secred desires, voiced so eloquently, well, it's enough to bond a feller instantly (and to make him pissed when Craig Monroe homers just before Inge comes to bat, thus wiping out his introduction music).
(Also notable: The Tigers broke out the "Bust A Move" during a White Sox conference on the mound during the game. Easily the best unexpected appearance of Young MC since, um, this one, I guess. Also, did you know Young MC has a degree in economics from USC? Impress your friends with that one, you will.)

9. The park.
It's a nice enough place to watch a game, but it's missing some of the basic amenities The Ford prefers. He's willing to overlook the out-of-town scoreboard that only shows 8 games at a time. But it's really annoying not to have anything showing either the current pitch count or the last pitch thrown. Sure, a radar gun is nice, but telling me a pitch is 85 mph doesn't tell me if it's a change-up or a curve. I need this info when I'm sitting in the outfield. Likewise, it'd be nice to see both teams' lineups at all times, rather than just the team that's batting. It's a little thing, but a big thing, y'know?
Other problems? A lack of drainage left about 2 inches of standing water in the front rows of every section at game time. Luckily, The Ford was wearing books in preparation for just such an event. But The Ford would have been out of luck if he'd had to set anything down, as it would have floated away down the aisle, borne back ceaselessly onto Woodward Avenue. Especially when the rains returned in the eighth inning, dropping two more inches of water in a matter of minutes. Really, the CoPa is the only part I've ever seen that needed its own flood control zone. (The rain was also notable in that The Ford totally caved to the rain, choosing to protect his new Tigers had with the heretofore unused "emergency" hood of his coat. The Ford had long held that, except in times of extreme cold, wearing a hat and using a hood was a redundancy on the level of wearing both belt and suspenders. And yet, when push came to shove, when rain came to wool cap, when years of ingrained, staid Pacific Northwesterner weather responses came up against a new $32(!) hat, well, the hat won, and the hood came out. On the plus side, the strings for the hood were a bright orange, adding another level of realism to the plausible impression of a Tigers fan I was doing.)
Overall, The Ford's got to give the CoPa a B-. A good park -- The Ford will be catching a lot of games there -- but there were way too many moments when The Ford wanted that extra bit of information but had to go without.


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