In other words, it was a lot like Lambeau Field. At least before recent renovations.

As such, I bid Tiger Stadium a preemptive and tearless adieu. Hopeless romantics can keep their old-school Cathedrals of the Game, their lyric little bandboxes of history and tradition. I'll take a soulless corporate park where the toilets flush automatically and urinal troughs -- the horror … the horror! -- are nowhere to be seen.

Comerica, here I come.

* * * * *

DETROIT, Sunday, July 10, 2:15 p.m. EDT:

Comerica Park is anything but surprising, hardly distinguishable from the half-dozen retro-chic facilities built in the wake of Baltimore's trendsetting Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Visible metalwork, red brick facade, extra-wide concourses that could accommodate an Abrams battle tank. Check, check, check. Ford Field stands next door. The surrounding area smacks of half-finished urban renewal: An oversized, hockey-themed sports bar marks the front line of gentrification; parking lots and abandoned buildings hold fast just across the street.

Walking along the fully-sponsored center-field concourse -- a Chevrolet SUV is parked on the roof, alongside working fountains and directly above a Taco Bell banner -- I come across a beer vendor, working in the shade.

Technically, this is the "General Motors Fountain." Hmmm.

"Hey," I ask. "Can I get one of those GM employee discounts on a beer?"

The vendor laughs.

"Aw, man," he says, spotting my press badge. "You can't drink on the job, can you?"

Amanda Beard
Yes, that's Amanda Beard, voted 2005's Hottest Female Athlete by . . . umm, you.

Not now. Maybe later -- the ballyhooed Stuff Magazine party starts in five hours. In the meantime, I admire the right-field statues of Al Kaline, Hank Greenberg, Ty Cobb and Willie Horton -- note: not the furloughed Willie Horton who helped the elder President Bush trounce Michael Dukakis in the '88 elections -- and stroll down to the bullpen, where tomorrow's arms are warming up today.

A nice way to showcase potential big leaguers, the Futures Game is also a nice way for baseball to sell another title sponsorship -- in this case, to a satellite radio company that will go unnamed.

Speaking of vigorous commercial activity, it's harder to find something at the aptly-named Comerica that isn't sponsored (foul poles, concourse trash cans) than something that is (bullpens, the outfield wall, the side of a nearby parking garage, every available inch of the scoreboard). I half expect the Futures Game jerseys to have "Spiderman 2" patches on their sleeves and VODAFONE scrawled across their chests.

Then again, I'm not complaining. I welcome omnipresent branding. Without it, how would any of us know that the MGM Grand Detroit Casino is "where the city shines," and not where the city goes to blow a couple hundred bucks?

Anyway, the game itself was billed as a contest between the United States and the World, with Canada, Venezuela, Cuba, Australia, South Korea and the Dominican Republic compromising the coalition of the willing. In fact, 10 of the 25 players on the World roster hail from the Dominican, equal to the number of U.S. players from Texas and California combined.



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