Sunday, December 1, 2013

Navin Field Grounds Crew: Honoring a Fallen Ballpark in Detroit

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
@Philabaseball

Normally, the Philadelphia Baseball Review focuses simply on baseball news related to the Phillies and the Philadelphia area, but sometimes stories from elsewhere across the country deserve our attention and this is one of those occurrences.

Everyone knows the city of Detroit has fallen on hard times, but there's a group of devoted baseball fans dedicated to maintaining the vacant grounds where Tiger Stadium once stood. Long story short (bad cliché, I know), city and police officials consider anyone manicuring the lot to be trespassing.

Thankfully, the story is finally beginning to gain some attention.

Navin Field Grounds CrewA film chronicling the story of the Navin Field Grounds Crew - the group fixated on memorializing the grounds of Tiger Stadium - was produced by University of Detroit professor Jason Roche and released in October. 

I've seen the film - "Stealing Home" - and the story is inspiring. This group of volunteers spend their own money and countless hours beautifying an area of Detroit that the city has limited interest (or money) in cleaning up.

"There's a saying that I heard ... 'Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is watching," Roche said following the release of the film. "The Navin Field Grounds Crew don't do volunteer work for a photo opp, they maintain the field when nobody is watching; they do it because they love the site.

"That, to me, is integrity, and that's love."

Tiger Stadium was torn down over the course of 15 months from June 2008 to September 2009, but the Tigers left the facility following the 1999 season, meaning the stadium stood vacant for nearly a decade. The city owns the 9-acre property, so that's why officials view the work of the Navin Field Grounds Crew as illegal.

You can view a trailer of the "Stealing Home" here. Roche hopes to have a DVD available for purchase in early 2014. In the meantime, support the cause and follow the Navin Field Grounds Crew on Facebook and Twitter.

I applaud the willingness of those involved with this project to preserve the history of baseball in Detroit. Tiger Stadium opened in 1912 and was one of baseball's iconic parks. It deserves a proper place in history and I'm glad to see the Navin Field Grounds Crew fighting to do just that.

Thanks to their efforts, the grounds are now used for pickup games, picnics, and the chance for fans of yesteryear to relive their favorite Tiger moments.

Anything to help promote baseball's rich history is a fantastic idea, and these guys are doing just that.

- Patrick Gordon is the Managing Editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review.  Follow him on Twitter @Philabaseball

3 comments:

Nick Godfrey said...

I got the opportunity to play on the field before a Lions game back in October. To stand in the exact location and bat where countless legends stood gives me goosebumps just to tell you about it now. To pitch off the mound where Hall of Famers once did was a dream I never wanted to wake up from. I never got to see a game at Tiger Stadium, but I can'twait to take my kids there to teach them about Tigers history and play a game there any chance I get to make the trip across the state. Thank you NFGC, Bless You Boys.

Patrick Gordon said...

Nick, thanks for the post and I'm glad to hear you were able to take advantage of the awesome work of this dedicated group of fans. The story needs to be spread so the city can respect what these people are doing.

tigerval said...

Those Navin Field guys And gals Re the stuff baseball dreams The made of. Thank you for the nice article...and co.e by and catch a game.