Birds flock to Comerica Park
Tigers grounds crew attempts to chase seagulls from field
DETROIT -- A minor annoyance at Comerica Park has begun to go away.The large flock of seagulls that has hovered around the field at Comerica for the last four games returned on Wednesday, though some pregame schemes by the grounds crew had dwindled their numbers. Before Tuesday's game, the grounds crew placed six plastic owls around the outfield before the game started. Also on Tuesday, two black Labradors were led around the outfield about three hours before the game. A member of the grounds crew walked with two black Labradors on a leash and allowed them to chase the birds in hopes they would fly away and never come back. Apparently, thrown and batted baseballs traveling upwards of 100 mph don't frighten the herring gulls but the dogs do. "The hope is that the birds just get annoyed of having the fly around because the dogs won't let them land," Tigers vice president of communications Rob Matwick said.
Head groundskeeper Heather Nobozny contacted local golf courses that had encountered similar problems with the gulls. They recommended using the dogs, and it appeared to work as there were only a handful of birds after the dogs had patrolled the field. The Brewers used a similar tactic in June 1993 at County Stadium, which was successful.About 30 birds returned about a half-hour before Tuesday's game so the grounds crew decided to bring out the dogs closer to the start of Wednesday's game. About 25 birds remained for Wednesday's game. The crew tried one last ditch effort to shoo the birds away before the game on Wednesday. A loud flare was fired from behind home plate about five minutes before the first pitch. It scared the birds as the majority of them began to fly away, only to relocate in a different position in the outfield. The same tactic was used after each half of the first inning but the birds just wouldn't leave. There could be even more birds on Thursday. The Tigers play an afternoon game on that day and the lights won't be on. For the most part, the birds leave the playing surface when the lights are on because moths are attracted to the bright stadium lights. The birds in turn follow the moths in order to eat them for a tasty snack. The moths likely taste better than rubbage the gulls generally eat at the garbage dump.
Brandon Inge said the birds aren't a huge distraction, though it called it "weird" and something he hadn't seen in his seven-year stint with the Tigers."I definitely won't miss having them fly around in front of you whenever you try to field a ball," Inge said. Brewers second baseman Tony Graffanino likely won't miss the birds either. Graffanino struck out in the first inning when a bird flew right in front of a pitch from Justin Verlander. Graffanino swung and missed and looked in disgust as the oblivious bird flew down the third-base line. Matwick said the birds will hopefully be completely gone by Friday, but it all depends on the moths. It is thought that the moths hatched within the last week and will be gone by the time the Tigers return from their 10-game road trip.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.Com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.