He’s baa-aaack!

Am I really going to start out this blog, which I have been so terribly neglecting, by sending all my love to Brandon Inge? You bet your sweet ass I am. While he only has one hit in his first six at bats, that hit was the game winning homer in an otherwise nail-biting event that had Justin Verlander scaring the bejeezus out of most of us. I hope this is a sign that Brandon is pumped up to have a stellar year at second base, and I hope JV doesn’t give me this much anxiety all season or I’m going to end up with one hell of an ulcer.

So far Tigers fans have seen amazing awesome-ness (it’s a word…) with 3 games having 10 or more runs scored, as well as an agonizing loss from our beloved all-star pitcher. We’ve seen our new batting lineup in action, with better than half of our guys slamming at least one home-run and every man up to the plate has had at least one hit so far (except Clete Thomas, but he’s a Twin now, so he doesn’t count).  The team has won 2 out of 3 series played so far, and 2 out of 3 ain’t bad… right?

Hopefully I can pay better attention to my little Tigers corner once this crazy school semester is over. Wait a minute, wasn’t this supposed to be for school? We can get into that some other time. For now, GO TIGERS!

 

 

 

#8/#9 My First Error of the Season/This is Carole’s blog, Carole’s blog is excited

#8 My First Error of The Season

Whoops… I guess I got too caught up in the unseasonably warm weather to think about sitting in the dungeon blogging. The sunshine and warm breeze makes me even more anxious and excited for the start of the baseball season.

#9 This is Carole’s Blog, Carole’s blog is excited

That anxiety is starting to subside, though. My afternoons have been spent with the radio dial tuned to 790AM, listening to Dan Dickerson, “The Voice of the Tigers.” While his play-by-play and commentary is alright for radio, he just doesn’t match the smooth wit and charm of Rod Allen & Mario Impemba, the league’s best broadcast team in this bloggers opinion. Unfortunately, FSD hasn’t aired any baseball action yet, so we haven’t gotten to hear those sweet voices.  Our Tigers have had a few televised Spring Training games recently though, appearing on ESPN and MLB Network — and they sure are looking good. Maybe it’s just that I am so happy to see my favorite team out on the field in that crisp, clean white uniform.

So how good are they? Well, it’s about half-way through Spring Training and the Tigers are on top of the MLB with a 12-1 record. (The team also has 3 ties, weird things happen during Spring Training) They have scored 10 runs or more in 30% of those games. That’s awesome, right? It’s even more awesome when you look at it by percent. The Tigers are at .923 (they won 92% of their games, for the math challenged), the next closest team is at a .765 (that’s only 76% people!) I know it hardly counts for much, as it is only Spring Training, and we have a fun exciting  winning LONG season ahead of us, but…

DAAAAAAAAAMN!

I love what I am seeing/hearing about so far, and it seems like everyone who counts  everyone else is too. There are excited whispers (twitters?) coming from the field and the offices about how everyone is meshing together so well.

Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are finding their groove both on and off the field. The two appear to have formed a fast friendship, which has translated into some great defensive plays between the 1st and 3rd basemen. The pair’s fun-loving attitudes can be seen in their run scoring celebrations, and the feeling must be contagious. The whole clubhouse looks like they feel more relaxed than in the past. Even Jim Leyland, who can come off a little tense and gruff, has seemed more laid back in recent interviews.

It’s pretty easy to be happy when you’ve got a team like ours. Everyone wants to be a part of this team — and these guys know it. All of their young talent is shining in hopes of being on that very short list of 25 when April 5th comes around. Ryan Raburn, Andy Dirks, and Don Kelly are trying to make their cases with their bats. All three are multi-position players who can bring some versatility to Leyland’s lineup.  He likes to change things up, and with an open DH spot that will most likely rotate, these guys know that the hits are going to speak for themselves. Second base is still up for grabs, too. Most reports are that Brandon Inge is looking good at second, taking to it like a duck to water. But the truth is, as much as I love my N-Inge-A, his .240 batting average isn’t impressing anyone.

I’ve asked this before, and I’m going to ask it again… Why isn’t anyone talking about Ramon Santiago? Does he really only get to be the back-up shortstop? Can his name get thrown into the second base ring? His numbers are solid all around. Hmm, maybe there is a reason why no one is talking about him. Wait, maybe it’s like Fight Club. Damn it, I’m breaking the first rule of Tigers blog, aren’t I. Please don’t kick me out….

#7 The Female Fan: An Interview with Jessica Harrison of Aerys Sports

I love being a female sports fan. I like surprising people, mostly guys, with my knowledge of names, stats, and current sports events. I like all the cute pink jerseys and hats, and now finally team color women’s cut jerseys, being sold by my favorite teams. It’s also much more fun to be a fan at a big game party, than to be lost in the commotion, or worse yet, mad about it. I also hate being a female sports fan. I hate that some people, again mostly men, think that I must not understand the game or know anything about the team simply because I’m female. It’s annoying when people mistake my favorite teams as my husband’s, who didn’t even follow sports until he met me.

I am slowly learning that I am not alone. While doing research for this blog, I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of other blogs and articles written by women who have the same passion for sports, baseball, and the Tigers that I do. I even found a sports website ran entirely by women called Aerys Sports. Just over a year old, this young sports news network has more than 100 women writers, reporting on both professional and college level sports. Each team represented on the site has its own page, along with a staff of dedicated female writers who are extremely knowledgeable and entertaining, and above all, they love their teams.

My team, the Detroit Tigers, is just one of the 23 Major League Baseball teams that Aerys Sports reports about on their site. Jessica Harrison is the Senior Detroit Tigers Reporter for the team site Motown Lowdown. She always has the inside dish on my favorite team and I enjoy her unique perspective and fresh insights on current team issues. She is part of a whole new generation of women sports fans. These young women are taking their love of sports to the next level, becoming professionals behind the scenes. Jessica being no exception, in addition to writing for Aerys Sports, she also recently took a new position as the Director of Ticketing with the Traverse City Beach Bums, a professional independent baseball club in northern Michigan.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica just a week after her big move north. I was excited to talk about baseball, the Tigers, and most of all, how she felt being a woman with a career in baseball. From researching online, I learned that Jessica had been an umpire and assistant softball coach for her local high school teams, earned a Certificate in Coaching from Kalamazoo College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from Western Michigan University, and had worked with the West Michigan Whitecaps as a Sales Intern and Coordinator of the Whitecaps Reading Club program. With such an impressive and extensive resume, the first thing I asked her about was her baseball career. To my surprise she let out a little laugh and said, “Career? I’m only 23, I don’t know how much of a career it has been.”

I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked, intrigued, and even more impressed that she had accomplished so much at such a young age. As we talked more, I discovered that Jessica played softball in high school and had gotten injured her senior year (classic scenario). Unable to play in during her college years, Jess learned to umpire, and eventually started coaching, in order to remain involved in the game. During her final month at Western Michigan University, Jessica was the team manager for the university’s women’s basketball team. After being told her position with the team would no longer be available to her upon her graduation, she sent a resume to the West Michigan Whitecaps, a Minor League Baseball team, “on a whim.” They must have been just as impressed with Jessica as I was because the week after graduating from Western Michigan, she started her job as a Sales Intern for the Whitecaps.

I was interested to know, after playing softball in high school, why Jessica chose to apply with a men’s baseball organization.  I wondered why she wouldn’t instead try to work for a women’s professional sports team. She explained that while she liked to play softball, she really wasn’t a fan of watching women’s sports. “I just like baseball more,” she says. “I’ve played softball. They’re not even the same sport. Softball is a faster game. I like being able to sit back and relax and watch a game, maybe drink a beer. I don’t feel like I can do that when I watch softball.” She also expressed some concern over the idea that most women’s professional sports teams and organizations are run by men. She noted that until women start taking control of their own leagues, there isn’t much hope of the sports being promoted and making progress. But even if that were all to happen, Jessica would still choose to have her career in baseball. “If baseball and softball were on the same level [professionally], I’d probably still choose baseball,” she admits. ”I’m not sure why.”

She says she doesn’t know why she’d choose baseball, but if you get her on the subject the reason becomes perfectly clear. Jessica lights up when the conversation finally comes to the sport and team she loves. I was eager to find out how she found her Tigers love, and she seemed just as excited to tell me about it. “I can remember the exact time – the exact place,” she says smiling. One of her high school softball coaches had taken her on a trip to Lakeland, FL to watch the Tigers during their Spring Training. (nice guy!) “Have you ever been there?” she asks me, “It’s amazing.” I have been, and she’s right, it is amazing.  Seeing the players so close; watching batting practice; listening to other women fans who really knew their stuff about the game – all these ignited a passion in Jessica for baseball and the Tigers.

So what would be Jessica’s dream job in baseball? She says she would really like to be involved in player development “but that changes all the time, so who knows.” Right now though, she likes working in the minors and for the smaller professional leagues, watching players improve and move on to the big leagues. “It’s fun to see a player make it,” she says. Jessica also enjoys getting to know the players and being involved with the host families that make it possible for these young men to follow their dreams. What I hope she realizes is that she is also making it possible for many young women to follow their dreams as well.

When I asked Jessica if she had any female sports role models growing up, she thought hard and finally said, “No, I really didn’t, but I hope I can be one.”  I told her that I thought she was already a great role model, even for some of us that may be a bit older. She is confident and knowledgeable, and will certainly continue to find success in her path. Jessica and the many other women of Aerys Sports, and beyond, are paving a new way for female sports fans everywhere.

#6 Fastball Flakes and Spring Fever

As I mentioned in my first post, I grew up with my dad watching the Tigers. I still have the ticket stub from my first game at old Tiger Stadium back in May of 1988. (Wow! That seems like a really long time ago…) I don’t remember if they won or lost, but I do remember having a great time with my dad. Ever since I’ve gotten re-acquainted with baseball, I have really enjoyed talking Tigers with him during our frequent visits.

While discussing all of the recent lineup changes, I asked him what he thought was going to happen to Brandon Inge.  Inge is dad’s favorite player, so I knew he would have a mouthful to say on this subject. We talked about his possible roles in the outfield, as the backup third baseman, as a backup catcher (but we’ve got G-Money for that), even just the possibility that he will fill in as the DH. “He could always go to second.” What? Really dad? While I agreed that Brandon very much deserves a spot on the team, I just didn’t think he would be getting a starting position.

Well, Brandon must have had his radar-ears on because just a couple of days ago he asked Big D, and then Jim Leyland, for a shot at the second base position during Spring Training. Leyland said he would be more than willing to give him the shot, stressing that the best player for the position would get the job. Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn have also been mention here and there as possible second base contenders. My question is: Where is Ramon Santiago’s name in all of this second base talk? I always thought he was a solid player and have often wondered why the Tigers didn’t play him more. Just another reason why this Spring Training is going to be more exciting than most.

My mother has always been supportive of mine and my fathers sports obsessions, no matter what sports season it may be. She always buys all the sports related goodies, like the baseball shaped crackers and football shaped brownies. Well, on Saturday she came home with these:

Fastball Flakes

Justin Verlander's Fastball Flakes

I felt like a little girl getting a pony for her birthday -but even better because I love baseball way more than I love ponies! This box will go on display so I will have to go out and buy myself another box so I can find out if it tastes as sweet and delicious awesome as Mr. Verlander.

Verlander will be among the Tigers pitchers and catchers who start their official workouts on Monday with new team pitching coach Jeff Jones (he was formerly the bullpen coach). While Jones is not new to the Tigers organization he, like many of the players, will need time to become accustomed to his new role with the team and on the coaching staff. Many other players have also started arriving in Lakeland, as well as Manager Jim Leyland, who brought along pal (and retired World Series coach) Tony LaRussa to “help out” a little with the team. He apparently also had a meeting with the Big D during his visit with the Tigers.  I’m not going to even try to guess what THAT meeting was about, but it sure would have been fun to be a little fly on the wall of Mr. Dombrowski’s office.

Hmmm, I wonder what my dad thinks?

#5 Let’s get caught up

Now that “Fielder-Fever” is cooling down and Yoenis Cespedes seems to have found himself a home with the Marlins  (surprise!) the A’s, Tigers fans are busy writing up their starting lineups and setting their eyes on Spring Training. Pitchers will be reporting to Lakeland and starting their workouts within the week. Official team workouts will begin on Feb. 24th. Both ESPN and FOX Sport Detroit announced their Spring Training TV schedules, with the Tigers getting six air dates between the two networks. Our newest royal acquisition and recent line-up changes could put us in the running for a few more dates when the MLB Network announces their lineup. The Tigers have their first preseason match-up on March 3rd. This will be the Tigers 46th year at Joker Merchant Stadium, and 78th year in Lakeland, FL.

Normally, spring training games are full of rookies and new acquisitions trying to prove their worth for a spot in the farm system. This year should prove to be an exception for the Tigers, as many of our players need to find a rhythm in their new roles before the beginning of the regular season. All three of our base positions will need to become familiar with each other. A picture posted recently of a slimmed down Miguel Cabrera gives me confidence that he is ready to re-acquaint himself with his old third base position. Our utility guys (Kelly, Inge, Raburn, Dirks) will have much to prove for a regular starting spot in the lineup. Young pitchers Below, Furbush, and Turner will take to the mound, each out to win a shot at the fifth spot in the Tigers pitching rotation.

While baseball fans are gearing up for spring training, football fans are left with little more than shortened clips from their favorite big-game commercials – except for Justin Verlander. Our very own star pitcher got to put up another award next to his AL MVP and CY Young. JV won the 26th Annual Scripps Howard Super Sage Award, the celebrity Super Bowl poll, perfectly predicting the Giants 21-17 victory. Justin is the first baseball player to win the award and only the third celebrity to guess the exact score of the game. Oh, and did you know he’s also a ninja – riding a cheetah.

In other Detroit related news, the NHL announced that the University of Michigan will play host to the 2013 Winter Classic outdoor hockey game featuring the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs taking place on New Year’s Day. As a part of the festivities, Comerica Park, home to the Tigers, will get its own icy make-over. The stadium will host our local Saginaw Spirit hockey team, as well as 3 other teams, in the first outdoor match-ups in OHL history.

#4 Review: Ken Burns’ Baseball

Ken Burns’ Baseball is a documentary mini-series produced for PBS detailing the vast history of the game.  Divided into nine ‘Innings’, each episode focuses on a different decade or era of baseball, beginning in the 1840’s.  The original mini-series, which spans 150 years, was released in 1994. In 2010, Ken Burns added a Tenth Inning to the collection, telling the story of what our game is today. This documentary is for the fan of the game.  It could also be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys watching documentaries or films about history.

This is the story of why baseball is called America’s Greatest Pastime. It has been a part of our culture since the very beginnings of our great nation.  Baseball can be found in every part of American life, in urban and rural communities, in the wealthy and the impoverished. Soldiers have played baseball to entertain themselves during every war the United States has fought in. It is not a perfect game, and like our great nation, baseball has had its share of conflict and scandal. Ken Burns tackles baseball’s most controversial issues including racial segregation, bribery, gambling, and player contracts.

In the first few episodes, pictures and music do the majority of the story telling. Quotes from prominent authors of the day, players, coaches and owners provide more background story to the beginnings of the game. Interviews with modern writers and historians reiterate the idea of baseball as a bridge of the generations.  As the technologies developed, later episodes of the series use radio and television broadcasts of games and interviews to bring the viewer into the modern age of baseball. Each episode, especially those from later years, shows the impact that historically significant people and events have had on the game, while also showing how the game has made its impact on American history.

Music plays a major role in the telling of this American story. The music in each episode helps to set the tone for that particular time in history. Every episode, just like a baseball game, opens with the playing of our National Anthem.  Booming overtures and bar room piano music can be heard in the earliest episodes; followed by jazz and swing pieces in later episodes; finally coming to the rock ‘n’ roll and pop songs we are more likely familiar with.

The interviews throughout the series give you many perspectives about the game. Coaches, players, and owners give their perspectives from inside the game while commentators, writers, and sportscasters give their insights from the outside. We also hear stories from a fans point of view.  While those mentioned above are fans of the game, they are professionals in and around baseball. Ken Burns gives us a more amateur view from stars like Billy Crystal, who even as a professional in his own right, has a love of the game as a fan who really is just a fan. He sits in the stands with the rest of us amateurs, rooting for his team.

When I watch this film and listen to the rich history of the sport, I become fully immersed into the story. Like listening to my grandfather tell stories of his youth, these stories transcend generations.  The game we watch today is essentially the same game your grandfather, or even great-grandfather, watched. There are nine men on the field, a batter gets three strikes then they’re out and if they do get a hit, it’s still 360 feet around the bases.  A common theme throughout the series is that baseball turns men back into boys. When you watch these men talk about the sport they love so much, they have an excitement about them; an awe and wonder about this game and the memories it brings them.

You can watch the documentary as the whole, or in parts. You can watch any episode on its own and not feel like pieces of the story are missing. You can choose to watch the series in order, or in bits and pieces. I enjoyed watching the earlier innings, but someone else may only be interested in the modern era of the game.  You may only be interested in the Babe Ruth era, the Black Sox scandal, or the history of the Negro League. You can choose only to watch those eras that interest you. I like that the series takes it’s time through the story of the game. You are not rushed through the history and bombarded with names and facts. It truly is a complete story.

Ken Burns’ Baseball is a great off-season pick for a baseball fan waiting for spring.

#3 Someday my Prince will come

First, I have to send out a huge THANK YOU to the ladies over at April in the D for adding me to their blog roll. These girls really know their stuff. I hope I can keep up.

Here I go.


No one saw this coming. Big D denied rumors for a week, saying that it wasn’t “the right fit” for the team right now, and we all trusted him. He really had us going there. Or maybe he really didn’t know that Mr. Ilitch (the Tiger’s owner) was making his check-mate move. Whichever the case, well played.

For those of you who don’t know (who doesn’t know about this?), the Tigers have signed All-Star Prince Fielder, son of former Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder, to a nine year contract, worth $214 million dollars. While many people have questioned if this was the right answer to what was supposed to be just a temporary solution to the V-Mart injury, all I can say is, “Welcome back to the D!” I am excited to see what his talent can bring to this team.

At Thursday’s press conference announcing his addition to the team, the young Mr. Fielder seemed very happy with his “dream come true” move to the Tigers; and I must say, he looks good in that white uniform.  He had one of  his sons with him during his interview. It was cute, and gave us all a little reminder of a young Prince with his own father.

I think the happiest person on the panel, though, was Mike Ilitch.  The 83 year’s young owner couldn’t contain his huge grin from having finally signed his ultimate catch. It’s been 20 years since Mr. Ilitch took ownership of the Tigers. He saw the team through their worst, here’s hoping that they can show him (and us) their best.

That same press conference also cleared up the question of who’s on first? Jim Leyland “made it clear” that Prince Fielder will play first base and Miguel Cabrera will move to third base.

That’s all well and good, but then, what happens to Brandon Inge? I know that last season was less than stellar. In fact, I know he’s been less than stellar ever since bombing the Home Run Derby a couple of years ago. One of the great things about baseball is:  just when you think someone is down and out, they come from nowhere and save the day (pause it at 2:08 and that’s me in front throwing my arms up). He’s kind of like a ninja, he’s our N-Inge-a. He will have an important role to play this season as a veteran member on a team filled with mostly young players. Without Martinez in the dugout, the next in line for that veteran title would be Cabrera. With his move back over to third, I think he will have enough to think about without the added pressure of being the ‘guy who’s been there’. By been there, I mean, been with the Tigers.  I suppose you could give that role over to Santiago or Laird, but I don’t want to Inge just has a leadership quality to him that I don’t really see in those other two. I would say Verlander too, but he’s got a bullpen full of pitchers to marvel at his wonder.  Above all these other reasons why Inge needs a spot on this team, simply put, he deserves it. He has been a loyal and faithful member of this team, and has said that if he doesn’t play for Detroit, he won’t play anywhere else. He deserves a spot on this World Series prospect team, and I hope he comes out swinging and ready to play, whatever his role may be.

#2 It’s all fun and games…

It’s January. There is snow on the ground. Most sports fans are looking forward to that really long commercial show that has a little football thrown in just for fun. What’s a baseball fan to do? Keep your eye on the Hot Stove report and hope your favorite players don’t get traded to the Yankees White Sox Indians dark side or get hurt in the off-season .

Doh!?!?!

Looks like we’ll be at least one man down for the start of the 2012 season. Victor Martinez, one of the Tiger’s power hitters, tore the ACL in his left knee (been there, done that) during a workout last week. Not great news, folks. I’m not worried about them finding a suitable replacement in the lineup, talent-wise, but will Big D (that’s Dave Dombrowski, Tigers general manager) be able to replace V-Mart’s presence in the dugout? He was a nice fit into the Tigers lineup last season, and he acted as a mentor to our boys the team right from the start. It will be interesting to see who they can find to fill both the hitting slot and the leadership gap.

A sunshine-y thought to get you looking towards April, the Tigers first two regular season HOME  games against the Red Sox will be broadcast on National TV.  While, alas, this means we won’t have the sweet, sweet voices of  Rod and Mario broadcasting our opener, Tigers fans everywhere will be able to Restore their Roar for the 2012 season.

#1 My Tiger’s History

I can’t remember a time when baseball wasn’t a part of my life.  One of my earliest memories is sitting on my Papa’s lap, watching a game on TV (I don’t even remember who was playing) and beside him was a little radio so he could listen to his Tiger’s, too. That was before the days of Fox Sports Detroit, or even ESPN for that matter.  Watching a baseball game on TV was an event, at least in my house.

My brother was born in October of 1984, the last year the Tiger’s won the World Series. I remember going to visit him and my mom in the hospital, and you bet those games were always on the TV.  I’m sure my parent’s had to pay big money for that back then.

I can remember my dad and Papa going back and forth on the telephone while watching a game.  One would call the other with a quick jab or one liner and quickly hang up so the other didn’t have time to respond. I will always remember my Papa’s quick wit and his love for the game. He would sure love being able to watch all the games today, but he has the best seat of any of us now.

When I was a little older (they would call it being in my tweens nowadays), I was crazy for baseball cards.  We would buy them by the box and sort through them for all our favorite players and specialty cards. I was still a Tiger’s fan but I loved Jose Canseco. He played for the Oakland A’s and I thought he was dreamy!!  He and Mark McGwire made up the Bash Brothers, power players and home run kings.  Of course, that was before we all found out about the (alleged) steroid use.  That certainly gave my formerly favorite player quite the tainted image.

Then came ‘the dark days’….

For about 15 years, the Tiger’s were… well… crappy.  They floated around the bottom of the division and in 2003 they set the record for most losses in American League history and were within one loss of having the worst season in ALL of baseball history.  I won’t lie; I got down on my Tiger’s just like most of the fans.  I couldn’t believe that MY Tiger’s could be playing so terribly.

The 2006 season brought the love back.  New manager, Jim Leyland brought World Series experience and a seriousness about the game that a team needs in their leader.  Players like Curtis Granderson, Pudge (Ivan) Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge, and Carlos Guillen contributed to a successful season, making the playoffs as a Wild Card.  With Rookie of the Year pitcher Justin Verlander and vets like Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers, the Tiger’s went all the way to the World Series for the first time in 22 years. It was a heart-wrenching loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

When I say that this season brought back the love, I really mean it.  I fell back in love with the Detroit Tiger’s and I’ve been a faithful fan ever since.  It kind of sounds like I jumped back onto the bandwagon when times were looking up. And I guess I did.

Now, I am a faithful fan.  I try to watch every game, I watch the recaps, I read the articles.  I have found a passion for this sport and this team.  The Tigers are MY team.

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