Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Five years in the making: The rebirth of Navin Field

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Navin Field Grounds Crew.

It was five years ago today that a group of volunteers came together and decided to clean up the site of Detroit's historic Navin Field on the site of old Tiger Stadium.

After the stadium's demolition in the fall of 2009, the entire site was left blighted and abandoned.

We simply could not allow this hallowed ground to become a garbage dump.

On Mother's Day of 2010, a local mailman named Tom Derry visited the old ball field with a few of his friends.

Much like Jack Buck, he could not believe what he saw. T
he field looked terrible. Giant weeds had overtaken the infield, the pitcher's mound, and the baselines. There was tall grass and trash scattered everywhere. It was an awful sight.

Then a thought occurred to Derry.

"I've got a riding mower," he told himself. "Maybe I can cut the grass." 

So Derry went home, called his friends, and Navin Field's first cleanup was scheduled for May 12, 2010.

More than 20 volunteers showed up that day to begin restoring this historic diamond.
In the midst of our cleanup, a city official showed up to question what we were doing:

We assured him we were merely there to clean up the field. 
After a brief chat, he left the field and assured us he would not call the police.

Moments later, the police arrived. 
But we pleaded our case, and they let us finish our work for the day.

Things would soon change, though. Derry was repeatedly warned that he would be arrested for trespassing if he returned to the field. 

Undeterred, he kept coming back with his riding mower, and the Navin Field Grounds Crew continued its quest to bring this historic field back to life.

Navin Field and the NFGC have come a long way since 2010.

Today, city officials no longer threaten the grounds crew. The police occasionally stop by on foot or on horseback to wish us well. The field itself looks great, considering all it's been through, and it's being used every day. 

The park is green, clean, and accessible to all.

We never thought that five years after that first clean-up we'd still be maintaining this historic field. But we're still here, and it's still very much a labor of love.

"The Corner" will likely have a new tenant soon, and we don't know how much longer we'll have access to the field

But as long as the NFGC is maintaining Navin Field, we promise it will be kept clean, the grass will be real, and the park will be accessible to everyone.

It's truly been an honor to preserve Detroit's field of dreams.

Come celebrate with us all summer long at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.
Cleanups start Sundays at 10 a.m. And there's great fun for the whole family all day long. 

For a complete calendar of events, visit Vintage Baseball at the Corner.