thanks for sharing! --Kurt
Today the Tigers Winter Caravan made a stop at Western Michigan University. The "West Bus" of the caravan included Alex Avila, Rafael Belliard, Duane Below, Joaquin Benoit, Tom Brookens, Casey Crosy, Dan Dickerson, Dave Dombrowski, Brandon Inge, Jeff Jones, Don Kelly, Rick Porcello, Ryan Raburn, Mike Rojas, Dan Schlereth, Clete Thomas, Jacob Turner, Adam Wilk, Danny Worth, and Delmon Young.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to make my way in behind the scenes in the media and press area before the fan luncheon, so I thought I'd share my experiences with the BYB community.
The highlight of the day for me was being able to talk for a few minutes with the man himself, Dave Dombrowski. I'm currently working on my Master's degree in Sports Management and would like to pursue a career in the baseball industry upon graduation, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to get some great advice. Dave stayed and talked with me for about five minutes, answering a few questions I had and providing some great insight on what I should do as I get closer to graduating. He even took the time to ask me my name, where I was from, and specifically what I wanted to get in to. I told him I was from the Metro Detroit area and was a huge Tigers fan, and thanked him for everything he's done for the Tigers. I REALLY wanted to ask him about the Vmart situation, but I didn't think it would be appropriate during our conversation. Overall he gave me awesome advice and was a super nice guy to talk to.
At this point a few of the other players started trickling into the room. Benoit and Rafael Belliard were kind of standing by themselves, so I went over and introduced myself to them. I wished them luck on the upcoming season and we got on the Vmart topic. They both said they felt terrible for Victor, but they were confident that we will still be okay.
By now the room was full of players and reporters everywhere. The usual suspects were being cornered and interviewed by the media non-stop: Dombrowski, Avila, Inge, Porcello, and Young. Some of the other guys were just hanging out or talking with each other. I took this opportunity to strike up a conversation with Ryan Raburn. I'm personally a huge Raburn supporter, so it was a thrill for me to get to meet and talk to him. I asked him how he felt about playing primarily second base this year, and he told me he'd play anywhere they'd put him. I also told him a story about how I tried to buy a Raburn jersey shirt last Opening Day at Comerica, but I was told they didn't have any. I told him he needed to talk to someone around there to get his shirt in-stock, and he got a good laugh out of that.
Dan Dickerson walked up and joined our conversation, which I thought was pretty cool. We talked about Western's athletic teams, Dan's daughter being recruited by colleges for volleyball, spring training, and the off season. Ryan mentioned doing some hunting in fishing down in Florida and Geogria, and the conversation took a turn to hunting and catching wild hogs. I never imagined I'd be standing with Raburn and Dickerson having a conversation about hog-tying in the south. Talk about interesting... I ended up meeting up also meeting Delmon Young and Danny Worth. We didn't talk much but I congratulated Delmon on his postseason success last year and wished them both luck for the upcoming season.
One of the more interesting tidbits came from a conversation my boss had with Jeff Jones. As news came down today about Carlos Pena signing with the Rays, Vmart's replacement was a popular topic of conversation. I by no means know how accurate this is, but Jeff Jones told my boss that they've held a few meetings on this topic and the 2 names that keep coming up most are Hideki Matsui and Vlad Guerrero. Meh. I personally wanted us to sign Pena, but so much for that.
A few other random observations:
- Avila and Schlereth are both shorter than I thought they would be
- Porcello, on the other hand, is taller than I thought he was
- Brandon Inge is still VERY popular with the local media
- Danny Worth is sportin' a pretty impressive beard. He asked me where the nearest bathroom was, but unfortunately I had no idea
- Schlereth had on some very interesting socks
After the interviews and pictures were done I went upstairs and stayed for the fan luncheon. The best part was hearing Dombrowski talk about last year and the upcoming season. He brought up the 5th spot in the rotation... and sounded quite comfortable that the role might be filled internally by one of the young starters in the organization. I'd still like to see us some Oswalt, but I guess we'll see. They also did some fan Q & A's and gave out a few Tigers prize packs.
Overall, being able to interact with players and coaches in that type of setting was so cool. I'm still completely blown away with how open and helpful Dombrowski was during our short conversation. It was an absolutely awesome experience.