Maybe it’s the promise of warmer weather on the way or that this is a huge Tiger town that likes to support its baseball team. Kid Rock also once said “there ain’t no party like a Detroit party,” so maybe that has something to do with the enthusiasm.
Whatever the reason, Opening Day in Detroit is celebrated with a fervor that’s unmatched by many other cities across the country. It’s not just a baseball game, it’s a local happening.
We thought we would give you a guide to Opening Day, whether you’re going to the game or just going to a downtown hang out.
At the Ballpark
The Tigers take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:10 p.m. ET next Thursday, March 29. Major League Baseball and the Players Association are trying to build a few more off days into the schedule. As a result, Opening Day is as early as it’s ever been this year.
While mid-50s (dare I dream low 60s?) temperatures and sun would be ideal, it’s Michigan in March, so be sure to pack that jacket and Tigers stocking cap just in case. If the weather is really bad, the MLB always schedules an off day for the next day in cold weather cities and the game could be made up.
Gates open at Comerica Park 90 minutes prior to game time. That means gates will open at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.
You may want to get down here extra early, particularly if you’re going to the game. There are going to be way more people downtown on that day than normal whether they have tickets or not. There will be more traffic and bigger crowds.
Also, the players may get Spring Training, but the game day event staff doesn’t necessarily get the same benefit. Given that it’s most likely a sellout crowd and the first game, it may take longer to get through security and scan tickets than normal. Plan to get down there early so you can build in time for this and possibly get your hot dog before the first pitch.
Although it’s not the main point of this post, if you’re going to cheer the team on, you may as well know who you’re rooting for. Although fan favorites like Justin Verlander and J. D. Martinez have moved on, established veterans are joined by a young core of fresh faces hoping to win you over.
The Tigers decided not to bring back Brad Ausmus, instead tapping former Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to take the helm. In his 13 seasons with the Twins, he compiled a.507 record. He was named American League Manager of the Year in 2010. He won the AL Central division in which the Tigers compete six times.
Jordan Zimmermann has been announced as the Tigers Opening Day starter. He’ll be looking to bounce back after a difficult 2017 that was hindered by a lingering neck injury. Joining him in the starting rotation will be Francisco Liriano, who will be reuniting with Gardenhire. Michael Fulmer will look to continue his early career success following off-season surgery to correct a nerve problem in his elbow.
Off-season acquisition Mike Fiers looks as though he’ll start the season on the disabled list with a back injury. He comes over from the Houston Astros. Young talent Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris will likely start the season in the five-man rotation.
The bullpen will be anchored by Shane Greene in the closing role. Backing him up will be flamethrower Joe Jiminez and Alex Wilson in primary set up roles. Two bullpen pieces to compete for a spot on the 25 man roster might be Warwick Saupold and Drew VerHagen. Buck Farmer could potentially serve as a swingman, coming primarily out of the bullpen, but being available for a spot start if necessary.
James McCann returns as the team’s starting catcher backed up by John Hicks, who saw some time with the club last year.
For the Tigers veterans, recapturing the magic seems to be a bit of a common theme. First baseman Miguel Cabrera is looking to improve following last season’s down year (by Miggy standards anyway). Designated hitter Victor Martinez has looked good this spring after having his 2017 campaign cut short by a heart issue.
Slick-fielding shortstop José Iglesias will be joined in the middle and filled by Dixon Machado after Ian Kinsler left town. Machado has seen action with the club before, but he’ll be stepping into an everyday role. They’ll be joined in the infield by Jeimer Candelario, the prospect out of the Cubs organization that the Tigers received in the Alex Avila, Justin Wilson trade last year.
The outfield starters look like they’ll include Mikie Mahtook and former third baseman turned right fielder Nicholas Castellanos at the corners. Newcomer Leonys Martin is a .247 career hitter who spent last year with the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs. He’ll split time in center with either JaCoby Jones or Victor Reyes who are competing for reserve outfielder spots.
Even if you don’t have a ticket to the game, there are still plenty of ways to get in on the celebration. It’s a good bet that just about any local sports bar or restaurant will have some specials. Many will have shuttles down to the game, especially if you’re near the city, so keep a lookout for those. We’ll highlight a few of the major events here.
Jack Daniel’s Season Opening Celebration at Little Caesars Arena
A free event is being hosted by the Red Wings. The game will be shown in the Chevrolet Plaza outside the arena on the 900-square-foot screen. There will also be performers inside the arena and various food vendors available. The event is open to all ages.
Event starts at 8 a.m. and runs to 7 p.m. when the Pistons take on the Washington Wizards.
Opening Day with the RIFF
101.1 WRIF is hosting an opening day bash at the Fillmore. Doors open at 7 a.m. and the on-air personalities including Dave and Chuck the Freak, Anne Carlini and Meltdown will be doing their shows from there.
Dave and Chuck will be sending some people to the game. For the early comers, there will be free donuts and coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and a free event T-shirt while supplies last. There will also be a free concert before the game from 80s cover band Rockstar.
When the game starts, you’ll be able to watch on the Fillmore big screen.
Channel 955 Opening Day Party
Channel 95.5 radio is starting their Opening Day party at 9 a.m. in Detroit’s Beacon Park.
The tent is heated and there will be food and drinks available for purchase, including craft beer and mixed drinks if that’s your thing. There will also be lawn games to play. The event is free and open to the public.
It’s going to be crowded in the city on Opening Day, so you may need to be prepared when it comes to your parking arrangements.
The parking closest to the stadium is operated by Olympia Entertainment and will cost you the most in all likelihood just given proximity. There are numerous other garages within a 15-minute walk of the stadium.
If you can park further away but near a QLine stop, you can ride the streetcar downtown. A day pass for the QLine is $3.
People mover tokens are $.75. They won’t get you to Comerica, but they can get you closer depending on where you park. There’s also a QLine station near the drop off for the people mover in Grand Circus Park.
As mentioned above, there will be shuttles from various local food and drink establishments going downtown to the game. You can also drive yourself, but be wary of traffic that day and be sure to have a designated driver if you plan on drinking.
If you live downtown, the QLine can get you to the major hotspots that day and the SMART bus is always a good option.
In an effort to make sure everyone gets home safely, Wallside Windows is paying for half the cost of a Lyft fare up to $15. If the cost of the affair is over $30, you’ll get a $15 credit by entering the promo code: WALLSIDE2018.
That’s it. Now, all we have to do is hope for a Tigers win. Who’s your Tiger? Are there any games you’re looking forward to attending this year? Let us know in the comments and go Tigers!