‘Stealing Home’

“Stealing Home” will screen at noon Sunday, March 23 at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Tickets are $10.

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Before/after the film: Detroit Tigers great Willie Horton will be present for a pre-film reception beginning at 11 a.m. (No photos/autographs.) Director Jason Roche will participate in an audience Q&A after the film.

Title: “Stealing Home: At the Corner with the Navin Field Grounds Crew”
Year: 2013
Running time: 87 minutes
Director: Jason Roche
Producer: Jason Roche
Writer: Jason Roche
Cinematographer: Jason Roche, Michelle Renaud, Cody Grant, Wade Hampton, Michelle Wheeler
Not rated; nothing objectionable
Other film festivals: Detroit Dreaming Film Festival, Capital City Film Festival

Though Tiger Stadium hosted its last game in 1999, it took a decade before the structure was fully torn down. This documentary from director Jason Roche focuses on the loose-knit group of volunteers that maintain the nearly 10-acre lot in Corktown, even though they are officially trespassing on property owned by the City of Detroit. Called the Navin Field Grounds Crew, they take their moniker from the name the stadium originally had when it opened in 1912. Armed with riding mowers, rakes, weed whippers, and a healthy sense of civil disobedience, they haul away debris, hack down weeds that can grow up to eight feet tall, and groom the old diamond. Police that stop by are usually sympathetic but tell them they have to vacate the property just the same. Roche uses historic photos and footage to tell the stadium’s story, plus gets insight from Tigers greats like Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson. He then interviews the various people that come to pay homage. Some are long-time Tigers fans that want their children or grandchildren to see the site or play actual ball games on the field, always with an eye open for police. The movie shows yet another case of Detroit DIY ingenuity as the Grounds Crew creates what they affectionately call Motown’s field of dreams.

Director: Jason Roche is an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Detroit Mercy. He never saw a game at Tiger Stadium, having moved to Michigan in 2009, but remains fascinated by the devotion of its fans.

A riding mower waits to cut the grass while the Tiger Stadium flagpole looks over the field in Aug. 2011.

A riding mower waits to cut the grass while the Tiger Stadium flagpole looks over the field in Aug. 2011.

Members of the Navin Field Grounds Crew on the pitcher's mound - from left to right -- John Bushta (on mower), Roy Jeffery, [spelling is correct on Jeffery], Bart Wilhelm, Andorra Shek.

Members of the Navin Field Grounds Crew on the pitcher’s mound – from left to right — John Bushta (on mower), Roy Jeffery, [spelling is correct on Jeffery], Bart Wilhelm, Andorra Shek.

Navin Field Grounds Crew members rake the infield.  From upper left --  Jason Roche (with camera) Dave Mesrey, Sarah Aittama, John Bushta, Erik Kuran, Tim Meloche.

Navin Field Grounds Crew members rake the infield. From upper left — Jason Roche (with camera) Dave Mesrey, Sarah Aittama, John Bushta, Erik Kuran, Tim Meloche.

Director Jason Roche poses with his camera behind home plate in Oct. 2013.

Director Jason Roche poses with his camera behind home plate in Oct. 2013.