Ignore the calendar.
The real first day of spring was Monday, March 31st, Opening Day for the Detroit Tigers.
It took awhile, but the city finally evicted irascible Old Man Winter, who had rudely overstayed his welcome, just in time to celebrate the return of its baseball heroes in high style.
The day’s weather was right out of central casting – dry, mid–50’s, and awash in sunshine. The benign conditions buoyed the spirits of the huge throngs of downtown revelers who had gathered in bars, parking lots and Grand Circus Park to indulge in food, drink, and pulsating music.
Welcome to Opening Day– Detroit, Michigan style!
To understand what Opening Day means to Detroiters, you might think of it as a composite of several traditional celebrations. It recalls the summery gatherings of the Fourth of July, the outrageous costumery of Halloween, and the bacchanalian excess of Mardi Gras.
Each of these elements is folded into one sprawling party, which radiates from Comerica Park, the epicenter, throughout the downtown area.
With area drinking establishments open as early as 8 AM and tented parking lot party-goers in full throat by mid-morning, needless to say many fans were “optimized” for a pleasant afternoon once the 1:08 PM game time arrived.
The Tigers did not disappoint.
It just looked like they would for awhile.
From the Tigers’ perspective, it was a game of contradictions. In a reversal of expectations, at least for this day, the home-towners were weak where they were supposed to be strong, and vice versa.
Though the experts had acknowledged the superiority of the Tiger starting pitching, Justin Verlander, who had pitched so impressively in the postseason and spring training, was not his usual dominant self on the day.
Further, the team’s defense, which was expected to be improved under new manager Brad Ausmus‘s realignment, was also uneven, marked by two errors and a mis-played foul pop-up.
The much maligned bullpen, on the other hand, expected to be the team’s Achilles’ heel, was unscored upon in three innings of work.
In a final twist, newly acquired shortstop Alex Gonzalez was designated the “goat” early in the game, due to an error he committed which resulted in an unearned run.
Later, an RBI triple and a walk-off single by Gonzales quickly necessitated changing his name tag from “goat” to “hero”. Such are the vagaries of the game.
So, lifted by a series of contributions from unexpected sources and a newly minted manager who pushed all the right buttons, the team is off to a good start in 2014.
Of course it’s a long season, but who knows? If the positive trends that emerged from the opener persist throughout the year, the mobile carnival that was Opening Day in Detroit might be re-configured for another engagement in the Motor City sometime later this year.
Ideally that would be in late October, say, maybe around Halloween?
Now that would be a party!