February 28, 2012; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Duane Below (64) poses for photo day in the rec room at the Detroit Tigers headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Many American baseball players are small town boys with big city dreams. Mickey Mantle put Spavinaw, Okla., on the map, after all. Likewise, Britton, Mich., is a humble village an hour southwest of Comerica Park whose famous citizens include Duane Below and well that's actually the entire list. So I visited his hometown to better get a sense of what this means for him.
Below had starts last year after so many other men didn't work out in the fifth spot (Phil Coke, Andy Oliver, Charlie Furbush, Hal Newhouser's ghost) and he did OK but then Doug Fister showed up and stole his spot. He was a finalist for the fifth starter in spring training, as you may remember, but Drew Smyly won the job and Below was assigned to Triple-A, only making the roster thanks to a Luis Marte injury. His relief appearances have been stellar, tossing twelve shutout innings, walking nobody and vulturing two wins. After Adam Wilk struggled, Below was the only sensible option for the start on Monday until Fister returns from the DL.
But even if you knew Below's Tigers pitching history, you couldn't really grasp how cool this was for the man until you drove through his hometown. The video begins as we enter the village.