twenty years now, where’d they go?

lionscamp

DEARBORN, Michigan — I began Friday intent on patiently and deliberately heading out of Chicago and toward Detroit. The prevailing traffic conditions and the need to go through the bottleneck around Lake Michigan had me a little bit concerned, so I left early. Things went smoothly and by noon I was on track to arrive in Allen Park, just outside of Detroit where the Lions have their football facility and training camp, about an hour early. So I made up my mind to have lunch in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a town close to my heart. In 1992 and 1993, my sister, Chaney, played on Midway Little League All Stars teams that won the World Series. Both of those summers, my family traveled from Waco to Fort Myers, Florida, for the Southern Regional tournament. The ultimate destination was Kalamazoo for the World Series. In 1992, Midway had never pushed past Naples in the regional tournament to get to the World Series. But that first summer we did it (point of order: I attempt to never use “we” when referring to a sports team; but because I would routinely field balls during batting practice for these teams and because my family was all in during both summers, I will use “we” in this context). We lost to Naples in the bracket stage, but came back to defeat them in two dramatic 2-0 victories in the championship round. I’ll confess, I don’t remember too many specific plays from my entire sportswriting career, but I’ll never forget Robin Klatt’s diving catch in the outfield to preserve the shutout in the championship-deciding game. That sent us off to Kalamazoo. So yesterday, I’m sitting in a Culver’s, eating lunch and the greatness of the internet allowed me to ascertain the location of the World Series field — Vandergriff Park. It sits less than a mile off of Interstate-94, so I knew I had to stop by for nostalgia’s sake. Once at the World Series, we mostly romped, but there was one dramatic moment. The first year, we lost the first game of the championship round to the West team, which I believe was from Oregon. That meant we had to sit around and wait half an hour for the second game before we could celebrate and hit the road back home. The image of the team sitting beyond the right-field fence, waiting to play the second game, is clear in my memory and therefore how I was able to recognize I was in the right place on Friday. Obviously, we won the second game. As I was typing a message on my phone at the field yesterday, I was surprised by the emotion that came over me. I posted the message on Facebook and called my sister and the prevailing sentiment was that we couldn’t believe it’s been 22 years since that first World Series trip. It’s fascinating/encouraging to be on a trip, asking pro football players about moments they remember from their football pasts and have such a dramatically nostalgic stop myself. After the short detour, I hit the road again for Lions camp. The Lions have been wonderfully accommodating and I had a great interview with Matt Stafford. I’m going back today to watch their scrimmage and hopefully see Megatron do something amazing.

If anyone has any recommendations for something to do in Detroit or Ann Arbor, fire away. On Sunday, I push south for West Virginia.

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