You’re not going to see a lot of Mikie Mahtook jerseys out at Comerica Park on a Tuesday night. In fact, it’s most likely that your average casual Tigers fan still hasn’t totally mastered pronouncing “Mikie” (it’s like “Mike-y” if you’re wondering). He’s the kind of offseason acquisition most people didn’t pay much attention to aside from saying, “Who?” or “Why did we trade Cameron Maybin again?”
Sorry, Mikie, it’s true.
But here’s the thing: in a season where the results have been dismal to the point of fans tuning out, and games becoming so grim it was hard to remember where the joy in the sport was, Mikie Mahtook has been a shining light.
He’s always there to offer high-fives to his teammates coming off the field. He’s grinning and cracking jokes in the dugout. During a game recently when the Tigers played against Mahtook’s former club, the Tampa Bay Rays, he and then second baseman Daniel Robertson shared some joking shoves after Mahtook got to second.
Mahtook is a fun player, on a team that could desperately use some joy. He’s got the kind of infectious happiness that makes anyone watching a game feel a little better for having seen how jubilant he can be. There are guys like that in baseball, who make it feel more like a game and less like a chore. They don’t have to be the best, most talented players, but they’re the ones who remind you what it is, at the core of the sport, that made you fall in love with it in the first place.
This attitude isn’t only obvious to viewers, it’s apparent in the clubhouse as well, where Mahtook’s positivity is having an impact on his fellow players. After Mahtook made a tremendous play in center field, he said he did it because he felt like he needed to make it up to Justin Verlander for missing a previous catch. “I wanted to give it to him. I owed him that one,” Mahtook told reporters after the game. “I felt like I kind of shied away from it and it still would have been a tough play, but I probably had an extra step and a half.”
Verlander was grateful for Mahtook’s hustle. “It's always a great moment seeing your teammate lay out and sacrifice his body to make a play for you. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Likewise, manager Brad Ausmus recently sang Mahtook’s praises.
Brad Ausmus on OF Mikie Mahtook, who we may now officially dub a Good Clubhouse Guy™. pic.twitter.com/s5ukbA8vuW— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) June 28, 2017
Even our own staff have been warming up to him.
I will admit I was wrong. Mikie Mahtook is one of the most likable players on this team— Kurt Mensching (@BYBKurt) June 28, 2017
The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what Mahtook’s season numbers are (.262/.290/.447) or that he has only played in 41 games. His energy and enthusiasm make him someone you want to root for, someone you want to see succeed. He’s the kind of player who makes you glad you turned on a baseball game.
That kind of heart has its own value on a team.