Family fun at the old ball game

Tigers strive for relaxing environment at Lakeland spring home

Brooks Chuchinsky, 7, getting up close and personal with his big league heroes. (Photo by Daniel Ramos) 

LAKELAND, Fla. – The Detroit Tigers are making the effort to uphold a welcoming, family friendly environment at spring training.

Fans of the professional baseball team make the trek to support their club every year and they’re rewarded with a delightful experience.

While the Tigers work tirelessly in Lakeland to prepare for their upcoming season, it’s here that the staff of Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium create this oasis behind the scenes.

“It’s just a home here. We want to have people welcome,” said Camee Morrow, 20, the social media marketing assistant at the stadium. “We want to have people come where they can talk and just enjoy each other. Enjoy our game.”

The Tigers staff meets regularly to improve on an already great establishment. Morrow said they’ve made sure to put their words into action and she emphasized the initiatives in place to engage with fans.

“We’re intentionally looking for these people, so every game we go out and we find kids to play ball or we go find kids to do our Little Caesar’s run,” she said. “We give out first game certificates. If you’re bringing a baby and it’s their first game, we’ll stop by the operations office and sign a certificate with the baby’s name on it, the date and the game that they came to.”

The Tigers stadium staff are intentional about what they do, she said. They know people coming to spring training are there to watch a ball game and have fun.

Many of the fans enjoy the casual atmosphere of the berm, a grassy patch located beyond the outfield fence.

There’s ample space for families to get comfortable and picnic while a professional baseball game is played right in front of them. They might even catch a home run ball.

A couple of Braves fans capture a moment before the game. (Photo by Jacob White)

Kyle Burg has made the trip from Detroit to Lakeland with his son, Easton Burg, for the first time and he’s been more than happy with the reception.

“It does a really good job making it feel like it’s home down here,” the elder Burg said, adding that it feels even more special because of the sunshine and lack of snow.

By Daniel Ramos

Toronto Observer Spring Training Podcast

Lisa Amaral, Thomas Chiarot and Zachary Friedman reflect on their day in Lakeland, Florida at the Detroit Tigers spring training facility. You can listen to the podcast below.

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Orange you glad he’s Canadian?

When fans walk up to the will-call gates at Publix Field in Lakeland, Florida, they are greeted by a smiling 68-year-old man in a bright orange shirt. He’s Canadian.

John Wakelin, a spring training box-office employee and Canadian-born retiree is following his passion for baseball in Florida.

Wakelin greets hundreds of fans every day and says he often encounters Canadians.

“When the Blue Jays are playing, I would say half the crowd are Canadians, you know? And so you got maybe — if you got a crowd of 8,000, you’re looking at probably 4,000 Canadians. Most of them from Toronto or Ontario.”

Wakelin proudly recalled his adolescent years in Toronto and remembers meeting former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

LAKELAND, Fla. – March 22 – John Wakelin, an usher at Public Field. (Photo by Jacob White, Toronto Observer)

He spoke of a performance he participated in at the Canadian National Exhibition Grandstand Show with Canadian minstrel Bobby Gimby, who wrote the song ‘Canada’ for the country’s centennial in 1967.

“He came up with a song: ‘Canada 1, Little 2 Little 3 Canadians. We love thee Canada proud and free. Hurrah and feed the Canada. 3 cheers. Hip Hip Hooray,’” Wakelin sang. “And we were the Company of Young Canadians. We sang behind him and we would just kind of march behind and hold Confederation flags 1867, 1967.”

On his love for baseball, the Lakeland local acknowledged his interest peaked following research he conducted on racial segregation in athletics. He discovered the Society for American Baseball Research and the Jerry Malloy Negro League Conference, which he attended in Detroit in 2014.

“Over the last 50 years I’ve had a love affair with the Negro Leagues from the 1920s through the 1950s, so I’ve collected ephemera, papers, photos, cards, memorabilia, anything to do with the Negro Leagues,” Wakelin said. “And about seven or eight years ago, I heard something about the Society for American Baseball Research and found out about that, and then found out that they had a Negro Leagues Committee and I said ‘oh wow.’”

By Shaelyn Winters

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Posted: Mar 27 2023 11:46 am
Filed under: Special Reports Baseball Sports