Metro Detroit schools to take field at Comerica Park tonight

Posted at 7:07 AM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 07:49:05-04

It’s like a dream come true for a high school baseball player.

The lights and sounds of Comerica Park, but the crack of the bat isn’t Miguel Cabrera or Ian Kinsler. The mitt won’t pop because Justin Verlander threw a fastball down the middle, instead Homer High School and University Liggett High School will face off in the first-ever Memorial Day Heart Classic at Comerica Park.

“Baseball is in my blood,” said Liggett coach Dan Cimini. “That’s my passion that kept me on the straight path growing up.”

Cimini turned his passion into a college scholarship. These days he’s bringing that passion to the field as a coach winning state championship in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016.

That first championship was the hardest, in fact, it nearly killed Cimini.

“I was stressed,” said Cimini. “Oh, I was stressed. It was the pressure of winning, every game was so stressful I was throwing up after the games.”

Cimini started to feel pain in his hand. He thought it was a pulled muscle. He felt a funny feeling on his side, he chalked it up to being sick, later he had heart burn - they were warning signs to a hear attack that he ignored for days. By the time he knew what was going on with him his chances of survival was essentially zero.

“It felt like someone walked up to me with a sawed off shotgun and shot me in the chest,” said Cimini.

Somehow, Cimini got into a car — he was driven to the hospital and he ran into the ER. Doctors would later tell him that his heart stopped twice. His heart was blocked 100-percent. At one point he had no blood making it to the most critical organ in his body.

“I appreciate everything in my life a million times more than ever before,” said Cimini.

Which is why Thursday night’s game is so important to him. It’ll be the first-time he’s ever coached at Comerica Park. Cimini returned to baseball, but he’s kept in perspective ever since. The game is special, but the reason behind it is even more. He and Homer High School coach Scott Salow are playing to raise money for the Michigan Veterans Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Salow is also the survivor of an emergency open-heart surgery.

“I think it helps get that point home,” said Salow, when asked how his ballplayers feel about his history. “They know the story, but I don’t know that they know all the gruesome details. What they know is that life is short, life is precious.”

The pair of coaches both note that it’ll be special to look across the field and see a friend, a survival story that is so rare.

The game begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday night at Comerica Park. Tickets cost $5 each.

If there is a rainout the folks at Comerica Park has already assured the teams a rainout date of Friday night, something the coaches noted they’re grateful for since it’s such a rare opportunity.

Checks can be made payable to API Foundation, and tickets can be purchased at Liggett, Homer High School and the Comerica Park box office up until game time. Purchase tickets by calling Liggett at 313-884-4444, Homer High School at 517-568-4464 or by emailing the coaches: or