Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rising from the rubble

Volunteers helping shape the future of Detroit's historic Navin Field.

With an assist from the Men's Senior Baseball League, Navin Field Grounds Crew members erect a Little League
backstop last week on the site of old Tiger Stadium, near Cochrane and the I-75 service drive in Corktown.

By Tom Derry

The Navin Field Grounds Crew has realized for years how important youth baseball is to the future of The Corner. Since 2010, we've been voluntarily maintaining Detroit's historic field of dreams. It's a labor of love for us, and although the stadium is gone, we believe we've helped preserve the field for posterity.

We also firmly believe that the dimensions of this historic field, home to Ty Cobb and Hank Greenberg, to Willie Horton and Willie Hernandez, must be preserved in its entirety.

Fortunately for us, much like they have in New York on the site of old Yankee Stadium, we have room here in Detroit for both the historic playing field, as well as a new diamond for Little League baseball. That's why the NFGC has started building a youth baseball field in the northwest corner of Navin Field, near Cochrane Street and the Fisher service drive.

Far from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue, our Little League diamond is in the perfect spot. And with so many people now interested in scheduling games at the site of old Tiger Stadium, we should soon be able to accommodate everyone who wants to play on this hallowed ground.

While the location for a second diamond was a no-brainer, building it was no small task. Parts of the land in that corner were filled with giant hunks of concrete, rebar, and other building material, all left behind from the demolition of Tiger Stadium.

The Navin Field Grounds Crew has spent more than four years removing the rubble.

Some of the work was too tough for our crew because we didn't have the necessary tools to remove the larger pieces of concrete. So we turned to our friend Aaron Smith and the good folks of the Motor City Grounds Crew.

The MCGC quickly answered the call and came to the rescue with jackhammers, air compressors, and other heavy-duty machinery. They were able to remove the debris from the ground so that we could move forward with our new field.

But we had another problem: The lay of the land was uneven, and we had giant holes that needed filling.

That's where NFGC member John Bushta stepped in.

Last week, thanks to John and the generous folks at Jackie's Transport, we received nearly 50 tons of dirt to help level the playing field.

We've made tremendous progress over the last four years, but we're not done yet. We'll probably need more dirt, and we still have to map out our Little League infield and baselines. But we're determined to finish what we've started.

The Detroit Tigers left The Corner after the 1999 season. But the game of baseball lives on at Michigan and Trumbull. And the NFGC will do its best to make sure that tradition continues for years to come.

So whether you're a seasoned vintage ballplayer or an up-and-coming Little Leaguer, bring your bat and ball, and come on down to Navin Field. We've got a diamond just for you.