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Will MLB return to Tiger Stadium?

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Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

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Major League Baseball could come back to the historic site of Tiger Stadium in downtown Detroit — this time, with an eye toward the future.

Darrell Miller, the MLB vice president of youth and facility development, told FOX Sports on Friday that the commissioner’s office is evaluating three sites in Detroit for the construction of a new MLB Urban Youth Academy.

The corner of Michigan and Trumbull — where Tiger Stadium stood for nearly a century — is one of them.

“Tiger Stadium is definitely emotional for me — it’s where I made my major-league debut,” said Miller, a California Angels outfielder in the 1980s. “There are other sites we’re looking at as well. We’re trying to figure out the best way to attack this. … Tiger Stadium is a great venue, an emotional and historical place for all of us — and I’m not even from Detroit.

“(Tiger Stadium) is definitely the sexier site because of the history, but we have to do what we have to do to get the deal done. It seems like it’s in the right area downtown. It fits in the redevelopment scheme of things. Having something at old Tiger Stadium would be nice.”

Miller said he would like to select a site for the project by the end of July. If that happens, he said it is possible construction could begin by next year.

The Tigers played their last game at Tiger Stadium in 1999, and it was shuttered for a decade before being demolished. A number of redevelopment ideas have surfaced over the years, but none has taken root. The site is vacant now, other than a baseball field maintained by volunteers that is open to the public. The City of Detroit owns the land.

Whether on the Tiger Stadium site or elsewhere, MLB would like Detroit to have a facility similar to the Urban Youth Academies already operating in Compton, Calif., Houston and New Orleans. Construction is underway on complexes in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Two graduates of the Compton academy — Dominic Smith (Mets) and J.P. Crawford (Phillies) — were selected in the first round of this week’s draft.

Typically, the construction and operational costs of Urban Youth Academies are shared among MLB, the local major-league franchise, governmental entities (federal, state, city and/or county) and corporate partners. Miller said the academy — free to Detroit boys and girls — would host educational support and vocational programs in addition to baseball and softball activities. The complex would include an indoor facility to allow for year-round use.

Of local government officials, Miller said, “Everyone seems to want to play ball, if you will forgive the overused analogy. We just haven’t worked out the details yet of exactly what it’s going to look like. … The major players want it to happen, and the City of Detroit is one of those. This needs to happen. Baseball should be played in Detroit. An Urban Youth Academy should be built in Detroit. This has the potential to be one of our best projects.”

Miller plans to visit Detroit again within the next several weeks to further evaluate sites and discuss a more precise composition of the financial partnership. He praised the Tigers’ work on the project so far, mentioning by name owner Mike Ilitch, Ilitch Holdings CEO Christopher Ilitch and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski.

“After what Michigan’s gone through, and the City of Detroit, this is very important,” Miller said. “It’s like our academy in New Orleans: When a place has gone through a difficult time, you really want good things to happen in those areas. That’s why we’re putting a full-court press on it to get a deal done.”

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