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Squirrel roams free in Motor City

Squirrel roams free in Motor City

DETROIT -- Two years ago, Comerica Park seemed like it was for the birds with all the gulls flying around. Now, the Tigers have to wonder if this could end up being the summer of the squirrels.

For at least the second time in the past few weeks, a squirrel decided to roam the field at Comerica Park, leaving fielders watching in curiosity and sending grounds crew members scrambling to chase it off between innings. Tuesday's squirrel, however, proved tougher to keep away.

The creature first appeared on the field as the Tigers were batting in the bottom of the second inning. It entered fair territory in short right field, then started exploring, crossing into center field, then into shallow left, down behind third base, back behind the middle infield.

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It was around that time that Red Sox manager Terry Francona thought he noticed a resemblance to second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

"I told Pedey it looked like that celebrity look-alike they have on AOL," Francona laughed. "When [the squirrel] was behind him at second, that's what it reminded me of."

By the time the inning ended, the squirrel was back where it started in right. Several members of the grounds crew began chasing it towards the warning track and towards the visitors bullpen entrance in left-center field, the same place where another squirrel scrambled during a game against the Rockies on the last homestand.

The squirrel dashed along the track from right field to center, much to the crowd's delight, then nearly kept going towards left before finally scrambling through the doorway to the bullpen. This squirrel, however, had some climbing ability, having briefly scaled the out-of-town scoreboard in the right-field fence along the way.

Once the squirrel was cornered at the bullpen, it jumped into the bushes behind center field, where it spent much of the next two innings running along the top of the fence and up into the second tier near the camera well.

Eventually, the squirrel made it back onto into right field, where he went around the horn and the outfield again. First-base umpire Bob Davidson shooed it away at one point when it was a little too close behind first base.

By the bottom of the fifth, it was back by Pedroia.

"That was pretty funny," Pedroia said. "I've never seen a squirrel running around. I got made fun of pretty much half the game. That was pretty much a distraction the whole night for me."

Right fielder J.D. Drew seemed unfazed.

"I didn't think it was that big of a deal," Drew said. "He wasn't bugging me. I knew he'd get out of the way if a ball was coming. He was pretty quick, too."

For the grounds crew, the squirrel was infuriatingly quick. At inning's end, the workers formed a semicircle around it to try to send it back towards the bullpen. Suddenly, the squirrel scrambled between them, turned down the first-base line and sprinted towards the Red Sox's dugout, ending up in the adjacent photo pit.

From there, the terrified squirrel made its way into the Boston dugout, where grounds crew workers with nets and garbage cans waited for it to emerge. Eventually, they caught it.

"I think they wanted to run him out of there," Drew said. "I figured he'd leave sooner or later."

Aside from the ribbing, Pedroia had no problem, either.

"It was kind of cool seeing that thing running around," he said. "Our hunting guys on the team, they were licking their chops. Other than that, everyone else thought it was cool."

In past years, the Tigers' home has been more attractive to birds than any furry friends. Much like Cleveland's Progressive Field last weekend, Comerica Park had problems with gulls flocking onto the field during games in the summer of 2007. Eventually, head groundskeeper Heather Nabozny called around and learned about flares that make a sound that scares off the gulls.

No word yet on what they can do about squirrels.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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