Changes, they’re a-coming.
On Monday afternoon, Tigers bench coach Gene Lamont was told he would not be returning to the team next season. Perhaps the decision comes as no surprise to most, with the arrival of new manager Ron Gardenhire, who will surely want to construct a new coaching staff that meets his personal needs.
It certainly didn’t come as a surprise to Lamont, who took the news like a pro, saying, “[Gardenhire] doesn’t need somebody like me. Ron doesn’t need an older bench coach like me.” Yet, that note of sadness in his words hit like a sucker punch, a stark reminder that this rebuild isn’t just about the players.
Lamont, now 70, has been with the team since October 2005. He was in the sunflower seed strewn trenches alongside Jim Leyland and his successor Brad Ausmus. He saw the team through two World Series runs, and then their recent collapse into the dregs of a rebuild, all while sporting the same crisp white Tigers uniform.
He has been in and around baseball his entire adult life. More than that, his history with the game began with the Tigers when he made his major league debut with the team in 1970, as a catcher. The Tigers were the only team he ever played major league ball for. He went on to become a coach, working with the Pirates, before becoming a manager himself, winning an AL manager of the year award with the Chicago White Sox in 1993. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, before returning to coaching duties with the Red Sox, Astros, and finally the Tigers, where he has been for 12 years.
Lamont has felt like a staple in the Tigers dugout, a true constant in a game that often finds itself shifting and changing at a moment’s notice. He and Justin Verlander were the last remaining pieces of the 2006 World Series team, and now both are gone.
The news of Lamont’s dismissal may not be a surprise, but it does feel like the final nail in the coffin of the Tigers That Were. For me, personally, it hit hard in an unexpected way. I have a ball on my shelf signed by Phil Coke and Gene Lamont, autographs collected in person during a sweltering day game at Kauffman stadium in September 2014. The last time the Tigers made a playoff run.
Lamont was gracious and friendly, maybe even pleased to be acknowledged when the other autograph seekers were trying to get the attention of bigger names.
Now his time with the team is over, and Lamont seems at a loss. “I’m looking for a job, I guess. I’m not sure what I am going to do.”
With his future, and that of the team he’s been with for over a decade, both looking uncertain, one can only try to find the positive. There will be more baseball ahead, both for Gene Lamont, and the Detroit Tigers.