DETROIT (WWJ) – The moment Tigers fans have been waiting for all winter long has finally arrived: Opening Day in Detroit.
The Tigers are set to kick off their 14th season in Comerica Park against the New York Yankees on Friday. Gates to Comerica Park open at 10:30 a.m. The first pitch is expected to be thrown at 1:08 p.m.
Ron Colangelo, vice president of communications with the Detroit Tigers, said they’re ready to give the fans a show.
“It’s somewhat of an unofficial holiday for the city and the state of Michigan,” he said. “Today for pre-game festivities, we will raise the 2012 American League Championship banner, which will give everyone in the park goosebumps.”
PHOTO GALLERY: 2013 Detroit Tigers Opening Day
The Tigers are expected to take batting practice around 10:35 a.m., which the Yankees will be in the cage around 11:25 a.m.
Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, said it’s always good to have a home opener against a high-profile rival like the Yankees.
“It’s always great to have a competitive team and be able to perform well against the Yankees, or any other club. It’s fun for fans to have a club that’s in the hunt and competitive,” he said.
Hometown hero Willie Horton, a member of the 1968 World Series championship team, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game, and Motown legends The Four Tops will sing the National Anthem. Air Force Staff Sergeant Patrick Jefferson will deliver the game ball prior to the start of the game.
Fans will undoubtedly enjoy the lack of snow during this year’s Opening Day, as in years past, because the weather is expected to be mostly sunny with highs around 50 degrees.
Noticeably missing from Friday’s celebration will be the pre-game flyover of military aircraft from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, due to cuts as part of the automatic reduction in the federal budget.
But that’s not stopping anyone from having a good time. In fact, hundreds of Tigers fans were getting a head start on the celebration before the clock even struck 6 a.m. Friday. Among the early morning tailgaters were Mike Kampfer and Steve Beaubien, who woke up in the wee hours of the morning to make the trip downtown.
“Every year I take pride in being one of the first ones down here. It’s Opening Day! There’s a lot of people here and all that, but there’s no Opening Day like a Detroit Opening Day. You can’t beat it,” Beaubien said.
The two friends from Eastpointe came well prepared with full coolers and lots of food.
“We’ve got pork butt, slabs of ribs, sausage, there’s about 10 pounds of chicken,” Kampfer said.
“The pork butt is perfect for tailgaiting. You throw it on there, you let it sit for about six hours and it starts falling apart and everyone comes over with a bun and you just tong it on there, you’re good to go,” Beaubien said.
One of the activities around the ballpark is the annual 97.1 The Ticket Opening Day Block Party, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. in Grand Circus Park — and admission is completely free.
No tickets to the game? No worries. Fans will be able to watch the game on big screens and enjoy a cold beverage in the View and Brew Tent. Fans can also try their hand at some interactive games and check out the vendor village merchandise displays.
Country/rock singer, musician, entertainer and songwriter Justine Blazer is scheduled to headline the Music Stage at the Block Party, starting around 10 a.m. And fans can keep the party going after the game as 98.7 AMP Radio’s DJ Ryan Richards spins on the Music Stage.