DETROIT -- Torii Hunter had seen two Tigers home openers while with the Minnesota Twins, and thought the crowds were excited. He didn't quite appreciate, though, what makes Opening Day in Detroit unique.
When Hunter pulled up to Comerica Park on Friday morning and drove around trying to find the player parking lot, he figured it out.
"It took me like 30 minutes, but I'm looking around like, 'This is great. This is like a college football game,'" Hunter said. "It was like a college football game. It was crazy. It was like tailgating everywhere, people having fun, walking around. It was definitely very impressive.
"It was way different. It got me excited. I'm walking in ready to go. It was awesome. It was probably my best [Opening Day] in all my years."
The tailgating is a big part of why the Tigers' home opener is an unofficial holiday in Michigan. Crowds were already building around the ballpark early Friday morning, with busloads of fans coming in to join tailgaters and celebrate the unofficial arrival of spring.
Manager Jim Leyland has seen more than a handful of them already. He compares it to the first day of deer hunting season in Pennsylvania.
"That was a big deal back then," Leyland said. "They'd close school down. Dads took their kids. It was a big day. This is a celebration day for Detroit, there's no question about it."
The on-field celebration included the ceremonial first pitch from Tigers great Willie Horton to his former teammate, Tigers broadcaster Jim Price, who made no secret as to his approach for getting back behind the plate.
"I'm going to give him a high target," Price said.
Price wasn't going to squat, but he still had to stretch to dig out Horton's pitch from in front of the mound as the part of the crowd that had already filed into Comerica Park cheered.
The Four Tops performed their rendition of the national anthem that became well known during last postseason.