Turf war brews at old Tiger Stadium site

Group petitions to stop installation of artificial grass at baseball field

DETROIT – Five years ago it was a weed-covered abandoned lot at the site of the old Tiger Stadium.

Now, thanks to the volunteers of Navin Field Grounds Crew, the natural turf is maintained and used by baseball players of all generations.

"We're really proud of what we've accomplished here. People come from all over the country and all over the world. They see this now as a tourist attraction and not a garbage dump," said Dave Mesrey, of the Navin Field Grounds Crew.

There is a plan to put in artificial turf on the field which would break ground next spring after the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) takes control of the site. Mesrey has started a petition drive to try to convince PAL to keep the natural grass.

"Home plate hasn't moved since 1912 and the grass hasn't moved either. So we'd like to keep it this way if possible and still help Detroit's kids," he said.

However, Tim Richey, PAL's chief operating officer, said their primary mission is to serve the needs of a large number of kids.

"We've got over 12,000 kids that play with PAL annually, and with baseball alone we've got 1,500 kids. If you have natural grass you're limited at the number of hours you can participate," said Richey.

Both groups want what's best for Detroit, but they differ on how to do that.

"I understand what they're trying to do and I respect that," said Richey. "I just hope folks can recognize what the mission of PAL is and what we're trying to do."

Both parties can agree on one goal: Keeping baseball alive at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull avenues.