Man, Navin Field Crew help revitalize field where Tiger Stadium once stood

Tom Derry, crew respected for free work done Sundays on abandoned lot

DETROIT - The corner of Michigan and Trumbull is a special place for Detroiters. A postal worker named Tom Derry came by four years ago after Ernie Harwell died just for the memory.

What he saw shocked him.

"Weeds had completely overtaken the infield. It was hard to tell where the baselines were," said Derry. "The pitchers mound, there was garbage everywhere, so I figured well, I got a riding mower. I know I can cut the grass and maybe some of my friends, they might want to volunteer, too."

The Navin Field Grounds Crew was born. At first, police chased them away, but they kept coming and today are respected for the free work they do every Sunday on the now abandoned 10-acre lot.

"We basically brought back a ball field from the dead," Derry said. "People will stop by the park before they go to Comerica, they want to come out here and run the bases where Ty Cobb played, where Hank Greenberg played and the mound where Mark Fidrych pitched on."

Some revive a game long gone. Some just watch. The Navin Field Crew gets no money. They pay for all supplies and equipment.

Derry is on disability from the postal service. Yet the crew never misses a Sunday in caring for their old friend.

"Well at first we did it because we just thought it was the right thing to do, but since then I have just met the greatest people down here, whether they are playing baseball or having a picnic," said Derry. "Maybe it is not major leaguers that are using the field, but the game lives on and the people are using the baseball diamond."

It shows you what community pride and a riding mower can accomplish. Week after week, free of charge, Derry and the Navin Field Crew keep our field of dreams a field of memories, smack in the heart of Detroit.

Heart of Detroit

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