Field Notes: My One-In-A-Million “Real Fun” Day at Comerica Park

By Vince Palko, GPRS Marketing Director

Field Notes: My One-In-A-Million “Real Fun” Day at Comerica Park

By Vince Palko, GPRS Marketing Director

[NOTE: On January 11, 2023, the Detroit Tigers announced they are taking down the backfield wall at Comerica Park and moving it inward by 10 feet, so the distance from deep center field to home plate will reduce from 422 feet to 412 feet and the distance to the mound will become 361.5 feet.]

Images taken by Vince of the Comerica Baseball Field
GPRS Marketing Director Vince Palko visited with Project Manager Parker Schings as the latter was scanning inside Comerica Field, home of the Detroit Tigers.

Until you’re standing on the turf in a Major League Baseball stadium, it is impossible to understand the sheer size of it. In the early morning sunshine of a late fall day, I had the joy of experiencing it firsthand, thanks to my work with GPRS. 

I stood near the warning track in the deep outfield, looking toward home plate, some 422 feet away, and imagined what it’s like to be the center fielder for the Detroit Tigers… Hearing the roar of the crowd at Comerica Park, racing backward toward the outfield wall to make a sweet basket catch… And realized the super-human athletic ability it takes to then rifle that ball into the waiting mitt of the cut-off man at second base, let alone firing it to the pitcher’s mound, which is only 60 feet and six inches shorter than the distance to home plate. 

Illustrated Cruise Ship Measuring at 400 ft.
400 feet, for comparison, is about the length of a cruise ship. No human being I know can throw anything from one end of a cruise ship to another. It’s an amazing human feat, and on a baseball field, a whole lot of fun to watch.

On this day, however, the glossy green of the outfield was peppered with the tell-tale wooden stakes and colored flags of a utility locate as Project Manager Parker Schings discovered, confirmed, and marked out the underground utility infrastructure of the field. 

People who aren’t in our business never stop to think that the beauty of a baseball field – everything from the lights that illuminate the park to the jumbotron and the perfect grass on the diamond – all exist because of what lies beneath the surface: the conduit, lines, and irrigation system that makes it all possible. 

The same is true of every stadium from high school football to your local park’s soccer pitch: before anyone can dig, build, or move anything in these facilities, a utility locate is crucial. 

What I didn’t know then was that my impression of the size of the outfield at Comerica and Parker’s task were linked. Parker was locating all the utilities so that the Tigers could shave a few feet off their cruise-ship sized field and make that throw from the warning track at least a little more manageable. 

All the brightly colored flags in the ground look like nonsense to most people, but not to Parker. Every flag he placed mapped water, sewer, or irrigation lines, and the electrical lines that powered the sprinkler system. It all started at the backfield wall, moved into the outfield, and branched out in an ever-widening web of pipes, lines, and conduit. 

And just like the super-human prowess of an MLB center-fielder, SIM-certified Project Managers like Parker can visualize the entire subsurface utility map in their heads as they create it. They know where the lines fall, where the potential for a cross bore exists, and how to work around the grid to safely excavate. 

Sometimes, the client has previous as-builts with utility locations, which can make things a bit easier. The Project Manager still has to freshly locate every piece of the puzzle, but the previous as-builts can point him in the right direction. 

“It’s the difference between walking into a dark room or leaving on a nightlight. I still need to turn the lights on (locate), but I won’t run into the dresser while I cross the room.”

There were no previous subsurface as-builts to consult for Comerica, so Parker’s super-powers were in for a workout. 

Thankfully for all of us regular guys, GPRS Project Managers like Parker upload their measurements, data, and field notes directly into the cloud so we can see what he sees, clearly and easily. Right now, that can be a bit of a multi-step process, but with the launch of SiteMap® it becomes a one-click upload…

And SiteMap® will provide a one-click, secure and shareable access point for all of your facility needs. 

“I used to have to get in the truck at the end of the day and spend a lot of time uploading my data. I had to access Google Earth, GPS, and all kinds of things. Now, I hit one button, start the engine, and rock out to great music for my drive home.” 

Was this a “normal day” in the life of a GPRS Project Manager? As far as the SIM-certified locating processes go, yes. But the venue? 

“This was a one in a million job, a real fun day.” 

I could not agree more. Thanks for the ride, Parker. 

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