Category Archives: Tigers

Labor Day Weekend Fun

By Jeffrey Buck

Looking for something fun to do this Labor Day Weekend? Look no further, here is a handful of ideas to get you outside and enjoying the long weekend! Leave a comment below if you have any other suggestions for readers looking for some fun.

  1. Detroit Jazz Festival– Several downtown Detroit blocks will be taken over this weekend for the 33rd annual Detroit Jazz Festival. 100 acts will perform on five stages over the four day jam session. Music is not the only thing visitors will enjoy with offerings such as educational activities for both children & adults and fireworks.
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    Dates: Friday, Aug. 31 through Monday, Sept. 3. Hours: Fri. 4-11 p.m. | Sat. & Sun. 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. | Mon. Noon to 8:30 p.m. Admission: FREE
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  2. Ford Arts, Beats & Eats – Downtown Royal Oak will once again be rocking as Ford Arts, Beats & Eats celebrates its 15th year. Visitors this year have choices to make as more than 200 artists perform on ten stages and several local restaurants dish out some fantastic cuisine. Oh and don’t forget to stoll around and taken in all of the art!
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    Dates: Friday, Aug. 31 through Monday, Sept. 3. Hours: Fri. to Sun. 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. | Mon. 11:00 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission: Fri: Free until 5 p.m., $5 after | Sat. to Mon. $3 until 5 p.m., $5 after
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  3. Tigers Home Stand – In what could be one of the most important series of the entire season, the division leading Chicago White Sox travel to Comerica Park this weekend to take on the Detroit Tigers. Sunday’s day game time was recently changed to 8:06 p.m. because it was selected as ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game.
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    Dates & Times: Friday, August 31 @ 7:05 p.m. | Saturday, Sept 1 @ 7:05 p.m. | Sunday, Sept. 2 @ 8:06 p.m. Admission: Varies, visit tigers.com
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  4. Michigan Renaissance Festival – It’s that time of the year again! You can go as you are or you can dress up in your best Renaissance outfit. Throw tomatoes, watch full contact jousting or bite into a big juicy turkey leg. There are games, food and music for all ages!
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    Dates: Open Weekends & Labor Day, Plus Friday Sept. 14 Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. | Rain or shine Admission: Varies, Adults: $20.95 | Child: $11.95
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  5. Great Lakes State Fair -The Suburban Collection Showplace plays host to a tradition that’s been absent from the state. Moving north and taking on a different name Michigan agriculture will be the center of attention once again at this weekends Great Lakes State Fair. There will be Michigan made products on display, livestock & agriculture areas, beer gardens and much more.
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    Dates: Friday, August, 31 through Monday, September 3. Hours: Varies, Fri. – Sun. 8 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.| Mon. 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: Varies, Adults $6-$25 | Children $5-$20
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Tiger Watch: Drew Smyly

As Opening Day quickly approaches, April 4th, we’ve turned to our sports contributors to get their insight on just who we should keep an eye on in what we are dubbing “Tiger Watch.”

Drew Smyly

By Collin Porteus

Odds are that at this time last week the average Detroit Tigers fan didn’t even know who Drew Smyly was. Less than 24 hours away from the Tigers regular season opener, odds are that Tigers fans now know him as the fifth starter of this uber-hyped 2012 ball club, they still don’t know much about the young southpaw. Going into this past offseason, it was assumed that the Tigers would sign a free agent to fill out their rotation, in what has become the teams annual search for a lefty starter. As the offseason came to a close and spring training began, it was expected that Tigers top overall prospect, Jacob Turner, would eventually beat out a field of Andy Oliver and Duane Below, another top five prospect and a lefty who performed well while with the team last year respectively, to assume the role of fifth starter. Alas, as the dust settled in Lakeland, Drew Smyly stood alone.

It is with all of that in mind that The Woodward Spine would like to shed some light on the latest edition to the Tigers rotation. Just two years removed from coming within two outs of throwing the first no-hitter in NCAA Division 1 championship tournament history as a redshirt freshman at the University of Arkansas, Smyly will make his first appearance in “The Show” on Wednesday, April 11th at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the span of those two years, Smyly, enjoyed success in the Tigers minor league system to the tune of an 11-6 record, a 2.07 ERA (earned run average), a 9.3 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) ratio and a 3.61 SO/BB (strikeouts per walks) ratio. He pitched brilliantly in this past offseasons Pan American games, posting a 2-0 record with 17 strikeouts in 17 innings of scoreless work for Team USA. These experiences translated into a productive, composed, 2012 spring training. “I took the guy that I thought had good stuff, a good delivery and threw strikes. How that plays up here, we’ll wait and see. That usually plays pretty good anywhere.” said Manager Jim Leyland.

Now, it remains to be seen if any of these statistics translate to the major league level, but that at least seemed to be the case through spring training. It would be unfair to expect Smyly to perform on the same level as Justin Verlander, or even Doug Fister and Max Scherzer for that matter, but the Tigers don’t need him to. Stability is what’s needed most at the back end of this years rotation. The 2012 Tigers lineup should provide no shortage of run support, which Smyly will be able to take advantage of if he can control his pitches and limit mistakes. This is going to be an exciting summer of baseball in the Motor City and as of Opening Day it looks like Drew Smyly’s coming along for the ride.

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Smyly's (@SmylyD) twitter response to receiving the news that he was the Tigers fifth starter

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Tiger Watch: Delmon Young

As Opening Day quickly approaches, April 4th, we’ve turned to our sports contributors to get their insight on just who we should keep an eye on in what we are dubbing “Tiger Watch.”

Delmon Young

By Patrick Smith

The Tigers two best hitters are well known, and they’re going to power the offense. Whether you believe in the value of protection that Fielder and Cabrera will supposedly provide one another, the two big boys can mash and they’re going to be great. But in order for the Tigers offense to score enough to be an elite team (and make up for their sure-to-be terrible team defense) they are going to need a lot of special hitters. Delmon Young has the potential to be that.

He is of course also a main reason the Tigers will be terrible defensively, and not having Delmon DH makes absolutely zero sense, but if Leyland has struck some sort of a deal with the devil that DY can play the field as long as he keeps mashing I’m ok with it. Spring training stats don’t mean very much, but Young’s .436 average is eye-popping and eyewitness accounts have him hitting the ball better than ever.  While he still can’t field, it is promising he came into the spring noticeably slimmer. He looks at least a little quicker.

Skeptics of spring training studs can look to Delmon’s .131 drop in OPS last year as a good indicator of a bounce back year. And for every pundit predicting the demise of Alex Avila because of his high BABiP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) last year, the reverse should be noted for Young, whose career-low BABiP of .286 with the Tigers last year should move closer to his .328 career average, and bring his batting average up to his typical .280 or .290. And for those skeptics of statistics, how about the power of a new environment, if Delmon can keep up the .458 slugging percentage he held as a member of the Tigers at the end of last season he’ll provide just the power the Tigers need at the fifth spot.

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Grand slam grants to help local schools & community

By Mike Fossano

Comerica Bank is offering two $10,000 grants to help local schools and the community by cultivating baseball and softball teams in southeast Michigan.

The grants – one in metro Detroit and one in the Central/Western Michigan region – are a part of the Grand Slam Program, which sets out to create, expand or improve area high school baseball or softball programs.

“As many school districts continue to face budget cuts, the Grand Slam Grant helps ensure our future all-stars have the resources they need to experience the game of baseball,” said Thomas D. Ogden, president, Comerica Bank-Michigan. “After 162 years in Michigan, Comerica remains committed to supporting its hometown teams.”

Applications will be reviewed for a variety of criteria including overall need, creativity and school and community impact. The grant recipient will be selected by the Comerica Bank Grand Slam Grant Selection Committee, consisting of representatives from Comerica Bank and Detroit Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch.

Grant recipients will be recognized on the field during the Detroit Tigers’ 2012 opening weekend game on April 7 vs. the Boston Red Sox. Each winning school will also receive 60 tickets to the opening weekend game.

The funds can be used for field improvements, equipment, training camps, or other baseball or softball-related expenses.

Last year the Grand Slam Grant Program awarded a $10,000 grant to Renaissance High School in Detroit.  The school used the funds for equipment, a new scoreboard and a travel showcase youth clinic.

Eligible schools can complete the grant application online at www.comerica.com/grandslamgrant. Once complete, the application, along with supporting materials such as photos or videos must be submitted via email to grandslamgrant@comerica.com by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, 2012.

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You’re a good man, Justin Verlander

By Young V

Last week, a certain high profile MLB pitcher decided he was going to do something special for a cupla Tiger fans via the Twitter account he uses sporadically to host contests, pique our interest for upcoming media appearances and for the occasional #union shout out.

But the contest Justin Verlander announced Friday was different. This time, Big JV was giving away a pair of *PLAYOFF* tickets to one of his followers for ANY GAME OF THEIR CHOOSING. All he asked was that those interested use the #tigersALDS hashtag and “do something creative” to explain why they deserved them. In >140 characters, of course (A twitter rule).

Because the stakes were super high and money to buy such highly coveted seats is currently scarce in Detroit (tix for last night’s game were selling for more than three times face value), JV’s offer elicited quite a response. And people got pretty creative.

For example, our own writer, @jsbuck, attempted to get creative with it– he told JV he was worthy of the pair because he’d take his dad who [tear] had to leave in the 8th inning for work during a playoff game in ’06.

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Detroit Loyalty: Deeper than you think

By Patrick Smith

Detroit Skyline - Google Images

Detroiters are obsessed with their national image. Unconsciously cataloguing every reference to the city, every piece of fiction set in the area. Attacking any comedian or personality who would dare denigrate it and scouring movies for local landmarks. I have seen Michael Bay’s The Island only because it was shot in Detroit, same for Four Brothers.

This would be a harmless affectation if it didn’t have such drastic consequences. It has led to years spent pouring money into the downtown and touristy trivialities while neighborhoods and schools crumbled. Engaged civilians spend their time talking about Detroit “looking like a real city.” Southeast Michigan still has no functional public transit system, but it hosted the Super Bowl and has a river walk. In 2004 before the Pistons’ clinching game five win, columnists and pundits were imploring residents not to riot because Detroit didn’t need another black eye nationally; begging your spouse not to burn down the house because of what the neighbors might think.

There is nothing wrong with beautification as a whole, and any reason not to riot after a sporting event is a good one, but anyone who was living near the Theatre District in 2006 and saw the effort that went into scrubbing and painting long vacant buildings, trying to make them look inhabited had the same feeling: What the f**k?

What the f**k are our priorities? What the f**k are we doing? What the f**k is the point?

A more trivial example was the city’s “Say Nice Things About Detroit,” public relations campaign, as if the only problem in Detroit was a misconception.

Of course there is a misconception, and while anyone spending his breath bashing the motor city can go to hell, Detroiters have started to embrace their dark horse image. As the city becomes ever so slowly more livable, Detroiters have started closing ranks-happy to keep the city’s myriad pleasures a secret to outsiders. New York Times pieces have flooded the national consciousness with stories of hundred-dollar houses, and Detroiters are bristling at a small but growing group of artists and would-be bohemians adopting the city. After decades of bashing from all sides, it feels unfair for outsiders to start enjoying the city’s pleasures: “you didn’t want me then, so hon, don’t want me now.”

Which brings me to the Lions.

Matthew Stafford, Lions QB - Google Images

Detroit fanhood is not more obsessive or better than the type found in other cities, it is just different. It has long been argued that sports fans in colder climates, or more depressed areas, cling more tightly to their teams, mostly for lack of better options. The effect for Detroit goes a step further because the city is so starved for national recognition. While Chicago and Boston may be cold, those cities’ residents are not dependent on their sports franchises for a national identity. Meanwhile the sports franchises in Detroit are often the only way residents have to see themselves reflected. For a city obsessed with its perception, its no surprise that area residents invest themselves so fully, as much for a sense of identity as to delight in victories. Often the Lions, Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers are the only face Detroit gets to show to the world. So the major sports teams represent the city in a way that most cities’ franchises do not. Straining for a light in darkness, Detroit residents may not be sure what they want national pundits to say, but they very much want to hear them say something.

This is what makes those endless “it’s good for Detroit” articles at least a little bit true. For the most part the feel good columns are condescending and hollow, a Red Wings victory or Tigers pennant doesn’t make the poor any less poor, it doesn’t lower the unemployment rate. Whatever psychic benefits come from a championship are fleeting and inconsequential in the face of Detroit’s problems, and the people who are supposedly the most “helped” by these victories are the ones with the least amount of time or capital to enjoy them. But still the victories feel good. Not because Detroiters want everyone to like them again, but because the teams persevere in spite of what the experts say.

The Pistons 2004 championship is a perfect example. The joy of that victory came because no one thought the team could best the superstar Lakers. Of course the two have nothing to do with each other, but that victory felt like a beacon of hope for the whole city. Los Angeles was the prettier, self-proud other in which everyone was so confident, but in actuality Detroit had been secretly building something great that no one else appreciated. It didn’t solve the city’s woes or ease anyone’s suffering, but that victory reflected Detroiters’ greatest hopes for their own real struggle: while everyone else was focusing on something bigger or flashier, the city had been creating something unique and impressive on its own

Anyone who has been to a Detroit at Chicago sporting event and heard the disgusting Dee-Troit Sucks! chant knows that the teams represent more than sports for other fans too. Chicagoans in particular seem to delight in Detroit’s struggles, because every Detroit failure insulates them from facing their own city’s difficulties. How often has someone in Chicago exclaimed “at least we’re not Detroit,” or exalted Mayor Richard M. Daley by saying, “without him we could be just like Detroit?” Because of its comfort in the lead, and own insecurities over being the “second city,” Chicago has somewhat belatedly declared a competition between the two cities. Sometime after Detroit fell to the ground and was crying for help, Chicago put its foot up on the city’s chest and declared itself the victor of a previously unannounced competition, much the way everyone in Chicago is suddenly a Blackhawks fan. Chicago and Detroit have two very different ways of relating to their sports teams. While everyone loves a winner, Detroit seems uncomfortable as anything but the underdog.

Woodward Spine © 2011

Which is why while Detroit is Hockeytown, and the Pistons and Red Wings hold the city’s most recent championships, the Tigers and Lions are the teams that are the most Detroit.

Detroiters rep their two losing-est franchises the hardest, taking abuse with a hardened jaw and a slight head nod (thinking, ok, ok we’ll see), more comfortable feeling the same national abuse over their sports as they do everything else. If you’re outside of the city, a Tigers cap or a Lions shirt says yep, I know you think Detroit sucks, but I know something you don’t. Whether you are from Michigan or not, anyone who has been to Detroit and enjoyed the unique experience the city has to offer holds a secret no one else can really understand without experiencing it. Listening to someone talk bad about the city holds a perverse joy, like listening to someone you can best in a fight talk tough, because you know the speaker is completely missing the point.

Nowadays the Lions are everyone’s second-favorite team, but I beg all of you to go back to the Steelers and Cowboys.

Lions fans had to root for Wayne Fontes and Scott Mitchell, Joey Harrington and Matt Millen. They delighted in Barry Sanders while at the same time wincing as they watched an awful organization squander his talents and force him into retiring out of frustration. This is not a cry for pity; Detroiters have seen plenty of sports victories in recent years, and are starting to enjoy some real life victories as well. It is not even a claim that fans from other cities cannot understand some false-sense of suffering. Rather, as the Lions look poised for the best year they’ve had in a while, the fans would like to enjoy this moment alone. And when the team breaks through into the playoffs this year it will not mean much of any consequence for a city still struggling to stand up on its two feet, but it will feel good to hear people say nice things about Detroit, so long as they sound surprised.

SPACE

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Comerica Park beginning to show age but still shines

By Jeffrey Buck

Woodward Spine © 2011

Comerica Park opened its doors in April 2000. It was a visual masterpiece with a touch of Tiger charm from its unobstructed views to the large tiger head lights surrounding the outer perimeter of the park. As the years have ticked away, season after season, the park has slowly transformed. Seats in certain sections have been replaced, outfield walls brought in, bullpens relocated, LED boards added and restaurants swapped. Mike Ilitch has done a decent job of keeping the stadium feeling fresh for a fan experience one won’t forget.

However, these changes have only been a few of what overall needs to be changed. After recently visiting the homes of the San Francisco Giants and the Baltimore Orioles I’ve come up with a list of the top five things that the Detroit Tigers front office needs to address regarding Comerica Park. Continue reading

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