Joker Marchant stadium is perfect for the Detroit Tigers.
If Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex was over-polished and over-produced, Joker is real and earthy. If Disney has staging, Joker has utility and natural grace. Beyond the centerfield fence stands a scaffolding holding two television cameras that I’m not sure would pass even a Guatemalan safety inspection. Nothing like that would fly at “Champions” Stadium.
The employees at Joker are retired northern transplants who are friendly and walk around with a garage bag eager to pick up your trash and exchange a few words. The Braves had young college aged employees with their names and hometowns prominently and precisely placed on uniform name tags. I waited 30 minutes in line at Disney so some young woman (being coached by an older male trainer) could speak into her countryman microphone to me through a mechanical speaker box. She then had to feed my ticket request through a computer and then run my credit card through another, yet more fancy computer. At Joker there are many efficient lines where you are pre-coached on what tickets are available and how much they are. The coach is the same man who later came around to gather garbage on the berm. When I got to the counter there was a friendly older woman who knew exactly what she was doing. And the only tags she had were a couple of skin tags on her neck, symbols of a woman who was experienced and proficient.
Even the air at Joker is different. They have these smokers that billow out rich hickory smoke laced with turkey drumstick fat drippings. It was a smoke more like campfire than the what emanates from the restaurant style griddles at Comerica. It smells like an outdoor ballpark should.
Joker has this little wiffle ball field in a corner that is a little worn at the edges. Worn because it has received good use. Kids feel like they can toss a ball around with out the danger of being scolded by some employee.
Even the fans are a little rough around the edges. The whole game this guy is running his mouth. He’s telling pitchers what to throw. He’s yelling to the batters about what pitch to expect. Peralta gets thrown out and he bellows, “JHONNY, YOU CAN’T BE THAT SLOW!” A complete nut because it is clear that Jhonny can indeed be that slow. He’s got his glove and he’s smacking it. I’m about ready to find a new place to sit. Up comes Cabrera and he starts yelling, “HIT IT HERE MIGGY! I’M READY TO CATCH IT! RIGHT TO ME NOW MIGGY!” I roll my eyes, this guy has lost it. We are deep centerfield with more than fifty people around us. Get over it.
Smack! Here it comes. A little scrum breaks out.
“I TOLD YOU I WAS READY!”
I guess the real nut was me for denying the power of spring training.
The Joker Marchant “skyline” features views of beautiful Lake Parker, but also the sight of the CD McIntosh Jr. power plant across the lake. The plant is a heirloom of industry in an increasing eco-centric world. It almost harkens back to the Motor City itself.
A friend recently told me that Lakeland is “Real Florda” with the winked assumption that it is rather unsavory. I’ll take it. I’m glad the Tigers have too.