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Former Tiger Joba Chamberlain reflects on time with Detroit, getting booed by fans

Not all boos are bad but some are worse than others.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

DETROIT -- Joba Chamberlain forgot what it was like to have to go to the ballpark. After he was released by the Detroit Tigers, the right-hander was left with a lot of time on his hands and getting back into a schedule during the middle of the season was weird. Being with the Kansas City Royals wasn't where he thought he'd end up, but he's hoping he'll be with the team for a while -- much like when he was with the Tigers.

The reasons behind why the Tigers let Chamberlain go earlier in the season were simple. He wasn't pitching well enough and the team, then still in the race, couldn't afford the instability. It was an easy thing to understand whether he or anyone else liked it or not. In retrospect, compared to the Tigers' bullpen now, his inconsistencies might not have been anywhere near at the top of the list of concerns. But that was then and this is now. Now, with Chamberlain on a winning Royals team.

"Obviously for a lot of these guys it's the first time they were in this situation of getting (to the World Series)," he said. "And obviously getting hot at the right time, too. When you're looking at it from afar you're like 'man they make it look easy,' but when you come in and you're with them every day, you can see why and just the work that they put in. Being a part of it, it's pretty special."

Back in Detroit for the first time since being let go by the Tigers, Chamberlain was his usual upbeat self -- a smile on his face and happy to talk to everyone and anyone. Going home to Nebraska ended up being a blessing in disguise, he said. It gave him a chance to experience a normal life for a short time with his son, Karter.

For a while, he didn't even want to pitch again. But the paycheck comes with the time off for only a limited time, and the real world eventually comes calling. A couple of days ago, Nick Castellanos went on Detroit Sports' 105.1 to talk. Among other things, Castellanos remarked that some of the members of the team hadn't forgotten the boos received during Game 3 of the 2014 American League Division Series at home.

Chamberlain, for his part, was the subject of multiple boos during that series. It's far from the first time he's experienced it, having played with the New York Yankees for several years.

"First of all, boos aren't as bad as how you feel about yourself. You let your team down. That's the toughest part. ... You can't sit and harp on it, it's a boo. At the end of the day this isn't life, it's a game. And if you can't stand to get booed a couple times, I've seen Derek Jeter get booed, it happens to everybody. If it sticks with you and you don't like it, play better.

"You can't take it personal. If you take it personal it starts affecting you in more ways than just as a player. It starts affecting you as a person and that affects the way you play. If you didn't leave it all on the line, then it should bother you."

Was the booing over the top at times? Chamberlain didn't believe so, though he admitted there seems to be a disconnect between the "player" and the "person," that there is a human being on the field and not a robot. That, a lot of times, the players' families are in the stands almost on a daily basis to support each other. They -- including small children -- hear things that Chamberlain wished his son and other family members didn't ever hear being said about them.

For the player, it's not an issue so much as it's tough to hear from their families. For his son, Chamberlain admitted there were times Karter would come to him and ask why fans would get so mean. Even though you try to shield them from a lot of it, eventually they hear it.

Times like the 2014 Fourth of July when Chamberlain and Karter were home in Bloomfield, Mich., and wanted to blow off some fireworks after the game. After checking to make sure it was okay with the police department, Chamberlain had asked his neighbors if they were alright with him blowing off fireworks late in the evening. They weren't small fireworks by any stretch of the imagination, he said with a laugh.

This being after work, on his own time and enjoying a national holiday, a fan not even living in his neighborhood came and confronted Chamberlain with his son present. Without warning and with family and other neighbors around, the fan caused a scene in front of his own house, scaring Chamberlain's son and making him cry. His son didn't understand.

So, there's two sides of the booing from Chamberlain's perspective. It comes with the territory. But it's not always appropriate and perhaps discretion could be used with how boos and criticism are used.

"That's the only thing my son's ever known," he said. "We (the Yankees) were in Texas in the (2010 ALCS) playoffs and someone was cussing at me and my son said something. He's like 'hey that's my dad,' you know, and then he told me about it afterwards. So, I just don't think that people understand that. Our kids are there, our families are there. I think it's hard for people to grasp that at times. It is what it is, you can't change it.

"At the end of the day, just being a normal person. You know, when people talk to you or say something and you respond, they don't expect you to respond. And then they go from 'hey you suck, you're terrible,' to 'hey man, I was just kidding.' Dude, I'm a normal person. I have feelings."

But boos or not, life still goes on. And when Chamberlain went home to Nebraska for a few weeks, he quickly fell into the "normal" life that most people live. Spending time with family was weird but "awesome" and during his time in Omaha with the Royals' Triple-A team, he'd go home to his son every day. After mornings and early afternoons of hanging out with his son because school was out, Chamberlain would nearly forget he had to head to the ballpark.

That was then, though. This is now. Now he's on the other side, looking at a Tigers team that once saw the Royals as a team that Detroit couldn't lose to. And that the Royals just couldn't win against. Those tables have turned. Now the Tigers can't win and for Chamberlain, it's an odd thing to see. And from what he's seen it took a lot of losing to learn how to win over Detroit. It's not that the atmosphere is different -- he said it's about the same -- but the team has been firing on all cylinders.

Chamberlain's start with the Royals hasn't been the best. Since being acquired some have said that Yost's bullpen is no longer "Yost proof" and the team has gone through a rough patch. There's been ups and downs of late. But the team hasn't whined or pouted about anything at any point this year. Someone will always get booed. Someone's always getting cheered for. At the end of the day Chamberlain said he's just glad to still be playing the game he loves.

"There's nobody with a zero ERA," he said. "Nobody hitting a thousand. You fail. The greatest fail 70 percent of the time. You tell me anywhere else you can fail 70 percent of the time and be considered great. I'll wait."