What it was like throwing out a first pitch at Comerica Park
Chancellor Domenico Grasso reflects on the preparations, pressures and thrills of his big role at the first UM-Dearborn Night at Comerica Park.
Growing up playing baseball in Massachusetts, there were two teams that captured my imagination. At the top, of course, were the Boston Red Sox, but rooting for them at that time required more than a little character. Being afflicted by the Curse of the Bambino, they seemed to be constantly finding new and creative ways to dash the hopes of their young fan. Particularly memorable was 1967, when they realized the “impossible dream” and made it all the way to the World Series but—succumbing to the devil’s talisman—lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.
As it happened, I also loved the Detroit Tigers, despite an uncertainty about where Detroit even was. With players like Mickey Lolich, Al Kaline and Willie Horton, to name only a few, it was hard not to love this team. And even though the Red Sox were an everlasting source of disappointment in my youth, I couldn’t have been more enthusiastic when the Tigers, in just the following year, not only won the 1968 World Series but did so by beating the soul-piercing Cardinals.
Fast-forward a few decades—I eventually found out where Detroit actually was—and the university organized the first ever UM-Dearborn Night at Comerica Park. The little boy from Massachusetts, accompanied by his Michigander wife, was given an opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Tigers game! How utterly cool—even if it wasn’t at Tiger Stadium!
Of course, my Little League skills have long since faded, even having coached my sons’ teams over the years, and I was deeply concerned about throwing a baseball that would pass the general vicinity of home plate. Enter UM-Dearborn’s stellar baseball coach, Matt Cunningham, to the rescue. Matt and I got together to play catch a few times at the Fieldhouse, reminding me why I loved the sport so much.
August 5 arrived, the Tigers were playing the Sox—the White Sox. The stadium was filled with all those who mattered: UM-Dearborn alumni, students, faculty, staff, family and friends. We actually sold out of our original allotment of tickets and had to acquire two additional tranches. All in all, we had more than 300 UM-Dearborn affiliates celebrating a beautiful day at a Tigers game. After accepting a generous check from the Tigers’ organization for our financial aid fund, I approached the mound. And yes, of course, the pitch was a strike—or so I remember.