It’s about much, much more than simply the re-purposing of the Old Tiger Stadium site. It’s about doing something for the kids of Detroit, and there are few things more important in this city than that. In so many ways, Detroit kids have been – and continue to be – cheated of what they deserve as the next generation upon whom the rest of us will depend to guide us safely toward whatever the future holds.
Put simply, Detroit kids deserve better, and they have deserved better for a long, long time.
“We know there are thousands of kids in Detroit that aren’t getting after school opportunities. They don’t have caring adults in their lives,” said Tim Ritchie, CEO of Detroit PAL.
Last week’s groundbreaking at Michigan and Trumbull, considered by many Detroiters to be hallowed ground as the site of so many inspiring Detroit baseball memories, didn’t so much close the door on those memories as it did open another door toward a future that will attempt the extremely difficult tightrope act of honoring the past revered by many preservationists while at the same time stitching those memories into the fabric of Detroit’s future – in a very different Detroit.
Detroit kids are the emerging pattern of that fabric, which may be why the name of the field is slated to be Willie Horton’s Field of Dreams, named after the revered Detroit Tiger superstar who was on hand to offer some comments of his own as he reflected on his life and career. Detroit PAL works with more than 13,000 kids each year, giving them the chance to enjoy a number of sports. PAL has been around since 1969, but this is the organization’s first permanent home.
The anger of many Detroit Tiger fans at the demolition of Old Tiger Stadium is understandable, and some wounds will simply never heal. Similarly, those who consider it a crime not to maintain natural grass on Tiger Field, as it has been for all these years, have a right to their nostalgia as well as their desire to keep the field as ‘pure’ as possible. But the stadium is gone. The kids, however, are here right now. Much of the problem with so many wayward youngsters is that they simply don’t have anywhere to go or enough to do. The programs that will be offered by the new PAL facility (due to be open by this time next year) are the sort of programs that can make all the difference in a child’s life. Sometimes all it takes is a little direction.
Perhaps Sen. Carl Levin, who was on hand for the event along with a number of other dignitaries and luminaries, said it best during his brief comments:
“Sometimes kids require protection, and there’s times when places require protection as well. Places that have historic significance. Places that have inspired heroes throughout the decades and the century in this case. Places also deserve protection, perhaps to a lesser degree than our children, but nevertheless it’s important that we preserve places such as this field. There’s gonna be more Willie Hortons and Kalines and Cobbs and Cochranes and Greenbergs and you keep going, because this field was protected,” he said.
“The heart of this facility is this field where kids are gonna play.”