Saving Tiger Stadium site is subject of new documentary

Tigers StadiumThis is the story of a passionate, but defiant group of volunteers who preserved the old Tiger Stadium site despite threats of arrest from the city of Detroit.

Every weekend, the volunteer Navin Fields Grounds Crew walk through the open gates with lawnmowers, weed wackers and rakes to maintain the field, which the city abandoned in 2009 after demolishing the stadium.

What’s left is a neatly groomed field that attracts families, pickup games, baseball enthusiasts, weddings and even people who want to scatter their loved one’s ashes. Earlier this month,Yogi Berra’s granddaughter came from New Jersey to watch the re-enactment of Willie Horton’s famous throw home in the 1968 World Series.

The crew, which is named after the original field, is the focus of a new documentary, “Stealing Home.”

The film premiers tonight (Friday) at 7 at the Detroit Historical Museum.

“It’s a great story in a city that needs to hear great stories,” said director and producer Jason Roche, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. “With all the negative headlines, with all the pundits using Detroit as the butt of their jokes, this was something that really moved me. I want this story to show the world that the people who live here haven’t given up on Detroit, that this city is worth fighting for.”

For the film, Roche followed the crew since Opening Day 2011 and captured candid interviews, which he blended with archival footage, including never-before-seen footage from the 1930s and ’40s.

“‘Stealing Home’ explores the rich history of Tiger Stadium and takes a critical look at why these passionate citizens are so devoted to this site, what makes preserving memory so important, and whether this abandoned baseball field can truly be considered sacred ground,” stated a press release about the premier.

“On opening day in 1912, Ty Cobb scored the Tigers’ first ever-run at Navin Field by stealing home against the Cleveland Indians. More than 100 years later, director Jason Roche sets out to determine whether these amateur groundskeepers can continue to restore their field of dreams. Or whether they’ll get caught stealing home.”

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.