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Detroit through the eyes of a Texas Rangers scout

 

Sam's Hardware - Brookline Little League 1960

We were ten-year-old Little Leaguers during the 1960 World Series when our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates beat the mighty New York Yankees in seven games capped by the first-ever “WALK-OFF” home run to decide a World Series Championship.  We were ecstatic and vowed then and there to make it to the bigs and win a World Series ring.

One of us may make it … with the Texas Rangers.

My childhood and Little League buddy (let’s call him Mickey) played some pro ball for the Phillies farm organization and later found his way into coaching, scouting and the front office of at least seven different major league teams — including the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Texas Rangers.  This year he was assigned to  scout the Tigers for the Rangers and to report to the Rangers brain trust on their every move, itch, scratch and what brand of chewing tobacco they preferred.

Honestly, he never told me anything he thought was a Tiger’s weakness. I’d really love to know just what he did learn or claim to know but I guess it will be another few years before I get any confession out of him.

Before he came here Mickey texted me and wanted to know what to expect in Detroit … as far as night life and things to do when away from home for extended periods. I told him the place was on the upswing with plenty of things to do for someone from out of town and single.

He had a good experience visiting the D. This professional sports vagabond really enjoyed his time in and about the downtown … the people, the events, the restaurants, Comerica Park, the hotels, the nightlife and the unique variety of establishments for visitors to experience.

I asked him what he thought about Comerica Park versus old Tiger Stadium and he just laughed and said there was no comparison and that Comerica Park was one of the best places to take in a major league ball game and for that he was extremely grateful.

Being a good ambassador for the D I took my buddy around to several well-traveled Detroit sports pubs … the ones you’d expect old friends to visit after watching the Tigers play.  To name just a few of the D’s finest we visited — Cheli’s, SLOWS and Nancy Whiskey.  We shared lots of laughs and told many exaggerated stories about just how good we remember being when we played baseball as kids.  We also took in a Moth Night evening at Cliff Bells jazz club, which is a must for anyone visiting Downtown.

Sandwiched between our guys’ nights out on the town, Mickey took advantage of his free time between ballgames to log a bunch of street miles exploring the downtown.   He probably logged more walking miles in the D this past September than most local politicians do during parade season.  Because Mickey is an urban explorer of sorts from all of his inner-city baseball travels, he enjoyed the RiverWalk between the Ren Cen and Belle Isle.  On one of his morning excursions to Belle Isle he took in the “Tour de Troit” and was surprised with the weekend turnout and enthusiastic crowd. A few days later he rented a bike from Wheelhouse Detroit Bike Rentals and took advantage of that tourist-friendly offering and rested his weary ‘dogs’ (http://www.wheelhousedetroit.com/).

Clearly, Mickey has learned over the years just how to take advantage of his free time between games and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city he’s visiting.

When I asked him over a beer what most impressed him, he responded without hesitation.  He looked at me and smiled and said he was glad he can dispel the urban rumor about asking for directions in Detroit.  He said that it’s not true that every place you are looking for in Detroit (from where you are standing) is just on the left or right of the second burned out building directly ahead.

Here are some of “Mickey’s” impressions of Downtown Detroit:

  • Every place he visited and everyone he met (on and off the streets) was friendly and pretty nice
  • He could not believe how good breakfast was at the Ham Shop Cafe.  Not only were the portions worthy of the term gluttony but also were really inexpensive.
  • There are good restaurants for everyone’s appetite and personal preference. Specifically, Tom’s Oyster Bar, Sweetwater Tavern,  Jacoby’s, Fishbone’s and the Old Shillelagh
  • The Westin Book Cadillac is as nice as any hotel used by major league teams and 24Grille was top shelf.
  • There are more smokers here than he’s seen in a long time.
  • The Tigers should be the Real Deal for the foreseeable future.
  • Cell phones don’t work so well in the Ren Cen but there are great views from the guest rooms.
  • Is that really Canada south of Detroit?
  • A crowd favorite outside Comerica Park is two urban street musicians playing electric guitars with their amps hooked up to the battery in a  parked car (only in Motown).

I hope you win your World Series ring this year, my friend, because next year it’ll be the Tigers all the way.

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