To certain people, it's an understatement to say there is something special about Opening Day and the long-awaited return of Major League Baseball. To them, baseball is a game that stands above all others, a game that is a massive part of their lives. It is truly a family affair that was instilled in them very early on.
The Detroit Tigers are set to take on the New York Yankees in their home opener this afternoon, a day that couldn't come soon enough for many fans. The grass in Comerica Park sits, pristine and untouched; like the fans, it has idled patiently, ready and waiting for the season that lies ahead.
An old friend of mine, Josh Vorase, grew up in Taylor, Mich., outside of Detroit. His family lived there until 1996, when they relocated to the U.P.
From left to right: Josh Vorase, his daughter Kalysta Vorase, and wife Laura Vorase, watch the Tigers play in their season opener against the Minnesota Twins, Monday, in Ishpeming. Vorase has been a die-hard Tigers fan all his life.
However, the city of Detroit and the Tigers always stuck with them.
"Some of my best memories as a kid were going to the Stadium with my grandpa or my mom and family," he said. "We used to get bleacher seats for probably seven or eight games a year when I was growing up."
As a result of getting older, I don't hear from Vorase quite as much as I once did. However, there is a day that I can always count on hearing from him: MLB's Opening Day. Sure enough, Josh got in touch with me on Monday during the Tigers first regular season game of the year, a road game against the Minnesota Twins.
The Tigers came out with something to prove, as they put up two runs early in the first inning. My phone rang, and he said, "It's Opening Day and the Tigers are already bringing 'em home. I wish I was at Comerica for their opener!"
When Vorase's mother was young, she used to take the bus into Detroit with her brother and sister to see games back in the 1970's. As a little boy, she told him many stories about those days. She mentioned many of the Tigers greats that have come and gone, as well as the 1984 team that won the World Series right there in the old Tigers Stadium.
"To me, that place carried a ton of history," he said. "It was one of the oldest ball parks in the American League. Baseball is definitely a family affair for me. (My daughter) Kalysta and I are watching the game right now as a matter of fact."
During my interview with Vorase, I also had the game on in the background. And although he was willing to help me out, I noticed a short lapse in his attention whenever the Tigers would make a play or get a big hit. The return of baseball was something he had been counting down the days to, and it had finally arrived. We must still be good friends, I thought to myself, considering that he would even allow me to distract him as much as I did during the game.
I briefly spoke to his daughter, who had no problem being open about her allegiances.
"I like the Tigers because my dad does," she said, as she donned a tee shirt supporting the team. "Normally, I might not watch baseball, but I do because he does."
Vorase added that Kalysta is currently playing softball, and he tries to get her to observe the way that big leaguers do things, such as backing each other up or going for a double play when they have the opportunity.
Josh Rouen, 28, of Houghton, was in attendance for Monday's game. He had been to countless Tigers' home games, but never to Target Field in Minnesota, and never to a season opener. Being an avid Tigers supporter, he said he expected a little more out of the Twins' fans on their team's opening day celebration.
"It didn't seem like it was sold out," Rouen said. "I saw a fair amount of empty seats, and the ones that were there were very relaxed. It just feels more comforting to be with your own fans. The Twins' fans were alright with the fact that the enemy was sitting among them."
Like Vorase, Rouen was raised on Detroit Tigers baseball. When he was 10 years old, he went with his dad and his grandfather to his first Tigers' home game. While he was there, he got to meet Cecil Fielder, former Tigers' great and father of current star Prince Fielder. They also had a fireworks display for the fans. However, most importantly, the Tigers won the game.
"It was a lot to take in at first," he said. "I remember walking in, seeing the statue of the Tiger out front. To a kid, that thing was gigantic and it really made me realize where I was. Then I remember walking up the ramp into the park with my baseball glove. Man, just so much to take in."
Rouen added that he has been to other baseball fields, but no one makes a hot dog quite like the ones at Comerica Park.
Tigers general manager and CEO Dave Dombrowski was also somewhat surprised by the lack of a tailgate atmosphere at the Twins game Monday. He told Fox Sports (FSN) that in Detroit, Opening Day is "like a holiday."
As the final days of spring training drew to a close, the city of Detroit began to buzz. The home opener was coming, and with it, the fans' daily schedules now included Tigers baseball again. For the entire summer, the music and the voices of FSN would become the soundtrack to their lives. And although it may not feel like summer yet, it is baseball more than anything else that assures us beautiful weather is coming, and another great year of America's past-time along with it.