I know Inge's release is old news now, but when it happened it really hit home for me, and I've been reflecting since on exactly why that was. I think Kurt's piece covered the general emotions well, but I just wanted to expand on it from a personal perspective. Maybe it's theraputic to put it all out there, I don't know.
When I read that the Tigers had released Inge, I teared up. Several times. And had to stop reading, and collect myself. I've never felt like that about any player, on any team, in any sport. But I think what was different about Brandon was even though I never met him, I felt connected to his career more than any other professional athlete I can remember.
When I was young, I went to several Whitecaps games every year, sometimes with just my dad, sometimes with the whole family. I can still recall some of the names of the players that were on those single-A teams a dozen or more years ago. Because I had seen them play when they were just starting their careers, I always had a special fondness for former Whitecaps players who made it to The Show. I liked Robert Fick, Eric Munson, Andres Torres, and many other former Whitecaps who were never great MLB'ers, but I wanted to see them succeed.
Brandon Inge was the former Whitecap I loved most. Even when he was in the minors, it was his D that made me appreciate him (No one ever sucessfully stole on him in any game that I saw him play). Once he made it to Detroit, I kept hoping that he would improve and be someone the team could build around. Obviously, that dream never materialized, but his defense and passion for the game always shone through for me even when he was bad at hitting (most of the time).
It broke my heart to see that he was being booed at home games this season. This is a player who's devoted his entire career to a team that needs players who care, to a city that has plenty of issues that go far beyond baseball, and some fans wanted to throw that all away for some WAR or OBP+ or UZR. Brandon played on one of the worst teams the Tigers ever fielded. He played on the only Tigers team that made the World Series in my lifetime. He played when Ernie Harwell was still calling the games.
I know he will never be a Hall of Famer. It's a minor miracle he was ever an all-star. He was never great. He was seldom good. But he was and will always be a Whitecap, a Tiger, everything 9-year old me wanted to be. For me, that's enough.
(as a side note, I hope I'm not violation some protocol by making this my first entry into the BYB culture. I've lingered for awhile but only recently decided to create an account)