I was driving home tonight, and received a text from my father. The text simply said, "Justin nixed trade to the stros." I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Not 10 minutes later, "He's gone. Justin is gone for good, to the stros."
I'd been driving for a long time, so I pulled over to a rest stop to stretch my legs. I walked over to a park bench and sat and stared at the message. I put my head and my hands, slicked back my hair and stared into the midnight sky, an early autumn night complete with a cool breeze and plenty of stars.
I opened up my browser, half wanting to believe it wasn't true, but it was.
I started to cry. I cried. I went back to my car and rested my head on the steering wheel and cried. I wept uncontrollably. It hurts. It will always hurt.
Back in 2007, my father and I went to a baseball game to see Verlander start. He'd been on a roll all year long, and my father and I had always made a point in seeing one tigers game a year, at the very least. It was a beautiful night in Detroit, Comerica was packed as it usually was for Verlander, and he gave the two of us a night I'll never forget.
Of course I am referring to Verlander's first no-hitter. Every pitch veering between terror and elation, Ordonez's slide bringing what seemed like the entire city of Detroit to its feet in one feverish moment of triumph and elation. Pitch by pitch, batter by batter, we waited with baited breath to see history.
When Ordonez gloved the last out, the stadium shook with screams and cheers, Tiger flags waived and people embraced, threw beers and popcorn and came together behind Justin. Justin Verlander. The Tiger's home grown ace.
My father and I went out to a bar not too far from the stadium. The bouncers were inside celebrating as well, so my dad sneaked me in and we camped out watching replay after replay of the masterpiece that Justin had painted.
My dad bought us both a beer. It was my first beer since I was 17 and a dork that didn't go to parties. It was a Blue Moon, and we clinked our glasses together and toasted JV. Outside, the city was alive and buzzing, drunken renditions of "Go get em, Tigers" echoing through the streets. My father, who had been to both of the Tigers' World Series, told me, "You'll never forget this night. You saw history tonight."
He was right. It was my most cherished memory of the Tigers, and Justin Verlander is the one who made it happen.
I remember skipping class in 2011 half way through Justin's second no-no, and watching with anticipation as he cemented himself as one of the best in the game. It took me back to the special night, and it made me glad to have witnessed it
Baseball is a business. But to me, the Tigers were always something special. I remember watching the 2003 Tigers with a certain gallows humor with my family, stating, "Who's ready to watch Mike Maroth light himself on fire tonight?" The losing didn't matter. The record never mattered, we just loved the Tigers. We loved how baseball brought us all together.
The Tigers have always been the center of Detroit. Detroit is a baseball city. Mike Ilitch was the beating heart of Detroit and his death left a hole that could never be filled. Comerica Park was the cathedral of baseball he built in the city that he saved. But the Tigers marched to JV's drum. He was THE Tiger.
When I lost it tonight, it was more on the realization that I'll likely never see him pitch in a Tigers uniform again. I'll never get to cheer him on with my father at Comerica ever again. And it tears me up. I, like most Tigers fans, love JV. Losing him, regardless of how good the trade was, will always feel like a knife in the heart.
We've lost our beloved Ilitch, and now Justin is gone. I feel like the Tigers' strongest pillars have been broken.
This wound will heal. I'll still put on my Tiger's jersey and go to games and watch fervently as the Tigers start to claw their way back up to the top, and they will. Maybe not this year or the next, but the Tigers' day will come.
But I can't help but look at my Verlander jersey and feel like something special is over. God speed, Justin Verlander. I wish you all the best, but I'll never stop wishing that you'd have stayed. It doesn't matter to me that this is probably for the best in the long run. You were my Tiger.
Say it ain't so, Justin. Say it ain't so.