Recapping My 2015 Baseball Trip Part 1

Low and behold another venture across the country to see more MLB stadiums has come and gone. And another dandy of a trip it was. For the first time since the 2010 trip to Cleveland and Cincinnati, this trip required no air travel and I’ll admit it was a welcome change.

This year we set off for the Great Lakes region, making stops in Ohio, Michigan and across the border in Toronto, Ontario.

Monday June 15

After my dad, brother and uncle arrived in State College late Sunday night, we woke up early Monday morning and were on the road by 7:15 headed for Cleveland.  After some nourishment in Phillipsburg, two sausage egg and cheese Mcmuffins, we drove comfortably for the next three and a half hours until we arrived in Cleveland.  This was the day before Game 6 of the NBA Finals and I’ll admit I was tempted to hang around and try to score tickets. But this was a baseball trip, not a basketball one.

Our goal was to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before heading about an hour south to Canton for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My dad has never seen either one, but myself, brother and uncle had stopped at the PFHOF way back in 2005 when our baseball trip was in its second year.

Shortly after getting to the RRHOF, however, we realized to truly experience it all, it would be an all day affair, so we nixed to trip to Canton. After all, It’s not terribly far from home and we could always go again.

The RRHOF was certainly a worthwhile stop and even for a casual fan of music and music history it was engrossing. Name your genre of music or time period and there was almost certainly a section for you. The largest sections in the place were devoted to Rock and Roll Gods like Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. There was also a surprisingly large Paul Simon section, but it turns out it was a special section for a select period of time.

One thing that I was scratching my head about was how much bigger Jay-Z’s section was than Metallica’s. I know they rearrange different displays from time to time, so I’m not sure if it was permanent or not, but I was a bit underwhelmed about how much Metallica stuff they had.

The pyramid-shaped design of the building can be a bit misleading because there is a TON to see inside, with most of the exhibits taking up the ground level. I enjoyed playing around with touchscreen displays that examined popular bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam and the notable artists who influenced them.

RRHOF

By mid-afternoon we were starving, so using Man Vs. Food and Diners Drive-ins and Dives to find the best places to eat in Cleveland, we settled on The Melt. I’d never heard of the place, but my brother had heard about it and it was an excellent choice (although my dad would disagree).

The restaurant caters to grilled cheese lovers, and while I was hesitant at first, my chicken parm sandwich, known as the Parma Italy by their menu, was sensational. If I do have one regret, or if I ever get back to Cleveland, I’ll definitely be trying the chicken and waffles. The table next to us ordered several of them and it looked phenomenal, perhaps even better than my sandwich.

Since it only stayed open until 5:30, which was a bit surprising, we spent two and a half hours after lunch back at the RRHOF until it closed.  We were out of the city by six. Truth be told there wasn’t a whole lot to see in the Cleveland anyway, so it was better to hit the road.

We drove to our hotel in Huron, Ohio by 7. I was exhausted, so I passed out on the bed almost immediately. After a brief rest, we ate bar food at  the local “hot spot” the  Main Street Tavern, after another place just next door to the hotel was too busy. After food, we meandered around the docks at the Harbor, where a huge sport-fishing boat from Florida was docked, then went back to the hotel where I watched the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup and hit the hay. A successful first day.

Tuesday June 16    

After a quick glimpse of a sun-splashed Lake Erie and brief encounter with Cedar Point, which I will certainly visit in full at another time, it was off to Ann Arbor, a town I’ve always wanted to visit, primarily to see how it stacked up to State College.

After a two hour drive, that included a brief stop at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (my dad couldn’t resist) we arrived in the town of Jim Harbaugh with several hours to spare before we had to be in Detroit for Tigers-Reds.

After utilizing Man vs. Food once again as a reference for a place to eat, we settled on Maize and Blue Deli on University Avenue. The menu covered an entire section of the restaurant and I nearly had to read it for about ten minutes, it was that diverse and thorough. I eventually settled for the massive and delicious Maize & Blue Awning, which combined my two favorite cold cuts, turkey and roast beef.

turkey and roast beef

Another satisfying lunch in the books, we strolled around a couple blocks before eventually getting in the car to take a picture by the stadium. Ann Arbor’s downtown, from what I saw, seemed slightly more modern. By that I mean, it just seemed like there was newer buildings and sidewalks, but I need to explore further. There was plenty of shops similar to what you would find in State College, and the street we were walking on lead into the Greek neighborhood, again not unlike State College.

Barely saw any of the campus, but parts of it looked like it ran right into downtown, similar to Eugene and the University of Oregon. The stadium. which as Google Maps aptly describes it as “massive,” was a good bit away from downtown and was surrounded by a gate, which appeared to house a concourse for fans to walk around. Unlike last year when we could walk right on the damn field at University of Washington’s Stadium, Michigan had it’s facility blocked off from public access, so the scoreboard and landscaping outside was the best I could see.

michigan

Unlike Beaver Stadium, which towers across the State College landscape from a distance, Michigan’s stadium is only distinctly recognizable by the huge scoreboards with the block M. It appears that fans walk into the stadium at the top and walk down into the stadium bowl to their seats. I certainly will be returning for a game here to see what the gameday experience is like.

My glimpse of Ann Arbor was brief but worthwhile and while it would’ve been cool to hit up Lansing to check out Michigan State, we needed to make it to Detroit.

Traffic wasn’t bad and we made it to Detroit in just under one hour. The city’s skyline didn’t jump out at me, and it’s understandable with the bankruptcy the city experienced.With about three and a half hours to first pitch, we made our way to the box office to snag tickets, despite the best efforts of the typical scalpers.

Tickets secured we drove to the hotel,a Doubletree by Hilton for a quick rest. It was a very nice hotel, despite the rest of downtown Detroit appearing fairly desolate. If you’re ever headed to Detroit, I wouldn’t buy into the”crime is everywhere and it’s so dangerous” message for the downtown area. Now are there worse areas?Sure. But why they hell would you venture there if you didn’t need to?

After our rest, we took a shuttle from the hotel to the ballpark. For rush hour, there was traffic, but nothing like your would see in Philadelphia or New York City. Comerica Park opened in 2000, but still looks just as nice as some of the recent stadiums that have opened in the last several years. One thing that stood out to me from the outside was how many fierce tiger sculptures resided along the outer walls of the stadium.

tigers

Around the stadium was fairly lively, with a couple outdoor gathering spots where food and drink could be had for a reasonable price. I enjoyed a beer in the outside expanse of Chris Chelios’ place and talked about the local scene, both sports-wise and socio-economically(it wasn’t a deep discussion) about Detroit with a friendly guy from Flint, Michigan. Prior to walking inside Comerica, we also were able to walk in the atrium lobby of Ford Field.

ford_field

One of the things I noticed inside Comerica was how many concession stands were closed. Even on the first level there was several beer stands that just weren’t open. While it wasn’t a sell-out, there was still a robust crowd. I’m guessing the economic downturn in the city has left a lack of available job applicants. The food selections that were open were pretty meager too. In fact it was pretty lame. Considering I was relying on the concessions for dinner, I was hoping for a more diverse menu than Little Caesars, nachos or burgers and hot dogs. I ended up going for nachos and a hot dog.

Our seats provided a good view of the downtown skyline and a direct view of the GM tower, which would change colors every so often.  Just over left field was the imposing presence of Ford Field and it served a reminder of just how much bigger football stadiums are than baseball.

left_field

downtown_detroitS

One of the creepiest sightings, however, was the abandoned Book Tower, which was just out of the primary downtown view if you were looking straight ahead. When I turned to my right to look over my shoulder, I could clearly see it. How could I tell it was abandoned? There wasn’t a single light on in the place. Plus, it was built in the 1920s and the architecture hasn’t changed one bit.

After the Reds defeated the Tigers, we grabbed some more pictures then headed outdoors to wait for the shuttle. After about ten minutes, we got tired of waiting and started to to walk back to the hotel. Was I nervous walking through downtown Detroit at night? Yes. But, honestly, after a few minutes I realized once again how empty it was in that part of the city. Just really starting for a major metropolis and probably unthinkable if you were to go back about 30 years or so. It’s a real shame what happened to Detroit and I hope the city gets back on its feet soon.

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