"Detroit Tigers Baseball is on the air..."
Man am I getting old.
This Thursday is the start of season number #110 of Detroit Tigers baseball, and, as a fan, my 44th.
I say 44 because my Uncle Bob told me he first took me to Tiger Stadium in 1967, and even though I have no recollection of that as a 7 year old, I use it as my "official' birthday as a fan of my beloved Tigers.
The Tigers are a good squad this year, and I'm hoping for a superb run for the guys from Motown, a winning record for sure, and hopefully, a division crown in the American League Central, and a trip to the post season.
I love the Tigers, they are the team of my youth, the very first team to acquire my love and devotion.
Being a fan of the Tigers hasn't always been isn't easy, that's for sure, but I'm back year after year, after year, dreaming of another World Series trophy for the boys in Detroit.
We've seen great players in the olde English "D", from the powerful right arm of Al Kaline in right field, to the powerful bat of Miguel Cabrera, from the Gold Gloves of Bill Freehan, Lance Parrish, and Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate.
We have also seen great teams, from the 1968 and 1984 World Series Champions, to the 2006 American League Champions, and with the A.L. East Champs of 1972 and 1987.
It's not easy though, because being a Tigers fan has also meant the not so good, as in 13 consecutive losing years, from 1993-2005, the miserable teams of '75, '96, and, of course, 2003, when the Tigers lost an A.L. record 119 games.
The Tigers have never been dull, that's for sure, and even when they weren't wining in the 1970's, they gave us the exhilaration of a run for the pennant in '72, the magic of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych in '76, and Ron LeFlore , who left the Michigan State Penitentiary to play center field and lead the American League in stolen bases.
I have always thought the fans who follow teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals have had it way to easy, they follow winners, teams who have won countless championships.
The Tigers have played in 10 World Series.
The St. Louis Cardinals have won 10 World Series.
That's what makes baseball so grand, and why spring means so much to baseball fans.
On Opening Day, it's all brand new, time to start over, a time when every fan, from Boston, to San Diego, from Seattle down to Tampa Bay, from Baltimore up to the Motor City, every fan dreams of the upcoming baseball season, and a chance to see their team play winning baseball.
The Tigers have a wonderful blend of youth and big league experience, guys like Will Rhymes, a terrific looking young 2nd baseman, Austin Jackson, the Tigers center fielder and lead-off hitter who seems to run down every fly ball and line drive hit between left and right field.
Justin Verlander is the Tigers #1 pitcher, and he has made it his mission this year to be that #1 guy from the moment he takes the mound this Thursday at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx against C.C. Sabathia.
Jim Leyland is the Tigers manager, and even though the Tigers have had their problems in the 2nd half of the last few years, I like how he manages the club.
Leyland is a terrific skipper, and I hope Tiger fans realize just how good we have it to have a man like Leyland in charge of our team.
Brennan Boesch, a young kid with a lot of power, who I absolutely think will be a terrific player, hopes to bounce back from a bad second half in 2010.
Brandon Inge is the Tigers 3rd baseman, just as he's been for 11 years now.
Inge, in my opinion, is the "Charlie Hustle" of our time, if I may reference Pete Rose.
No one plays harder, on ever single play, than Inge, and if Rose isn't a good analogy, than sue Bobby Higginson, who played hard every play, in every game, in the Tigers outfield, and on the bases, in the 1990's.
Miguel Cabrera, the best player in the A.L., has been given some tremendous help in Victor Martinez, whom the Tigers signed as a free agent the past winter.
Martinez is a proven big league hitter, and he will DH and catch, backing up young Alex Avila, and giving the Tigers hitters protection, weather they hit in front, or behind him.
The Tigers were 81-81 last year, and yet, with the changes in the off season, I like the Tigers to win 90+ games, and contend in the division.
I'm not one to forecast, or project what a baseball team will do, after all, the players are in control, not me, but I love the start of baseball season, and I am excited what the Tigers are doing, and believe in this team.
Being a fan of the Tigers, I wouldn't trade it for all the rings, the awards, all the fame of any of the big boys, be it from the Bronx, the Windy City, or the City of Angels.
I love the Detroit Tigers...play ball!