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One Last Hurrah for Navin Field Grounds Crew

New Detroit ballpark

The Navin Field Grounds Crew held one last round of festivities at the old Tiger Stadium field before work begins Wednesday on a new development at The Corner.

To say the Navin Field Grounds Crew filled a terribly important role in Tiger Stadium history is an understatement. When the city of Detroit and the Detroit Tigers turned their backs on Tiger Stadium — first tearing down most of the old ballpark down to the original Navin Field grandstand, and later tearing down that grandstand — the Navin Field Grounds Crew stepped up and volunteered to maintain the old playing field that once hosted the likes of Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline and Norm Cash. They did it for love of game. They were also right about many things: we’re guessing city leaders are now feeling pretty foolish for tearing down the old Navin Field grandstand, which would have been a wonderful focal point for any new development.

But with the new development, the Navin Field Grounds Crew‘s job is done. The grass will be replaced by synthetic turf — the better to hold daily baseball and soccer games, as the site is envisioned as a focal point for youth sports — and the subsequent development will bring some sorely needed jobs and revenue to a still-rebounding Corktown neighborhood. Before the work starts this week, the Navin Field Grounds Crew held one last hurrah this weekend. From the Detroit News:

“The field means so much to so many people,” said Tom Derry, who founded the volunteer crew in 2010 to maintain the diamond and grass. “When we took over that field the weeds were 6 and 8 feet tall and there was trash everywhere. We turned a trash dump into a field of dreams.”

Derry, along with 30 others of the unofficial maintenance crew, have tended to the 9 1/2-acre field on weekends for years. The site, he said, has been an attraction for visitors from across the nation. It’s also been home to little and adult leagues and pickup games of all kinds as well as a destination for wedding ceremonies and for scattering the ashes of loved ones.

“We’ve had a great run here,” said Derry, 52, of Redford Township. “We knew it wouldn’t last forever. We’ve been honored to be the temporary caretakers of that field.”

The development is headed by the Police Athletic League and the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy.

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