Tigers\' Miguel Cabrera Jarred By Season Ending Injury, But Plans To Stay Close To Team

The view from the press box is vast, not confined to the quarters where I sit for many hours on many nights for many months, tweeting and writing about baseball games that are sometimes exciting these days.

The view is all-encompassing; it’s standing around the clubhouse twice a day, trying to stay out of people’s way, straying far beyond the stadium, into coffee shops and hotels, bars and restaurants and on at least one occasion, a stage.

Beat writing seasons are not defined by wins and losses, though I write to you as someone who has yet to cover a winning team in four seasons as the Detroit Tigers beat writer for the Free Press. They are instead defined by the stories within the nearly eight-month schedule, the relationships that make them happen, the behind-the-scenes happenings that stick with you at the end of the day.

Tigers designated hitter Nicholas Castellanos, right, is congratulated by center fielder Victor Reyes after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh inning on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, at Comerica Park. Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports

Here are the moments I’ll remember from the 2018 season:

• I wrote about it here, but I’ll remember that the two players who posted the sheet of paper in their lockers were Matthew Boyd and Joe Jimenez. One didn’t take it down all spring. This is what you want.

• A day trip to Progressive Field, talking to former Tigers who now play with the Red Sox. One of the best parts is the relationships with players you’ve covered in the past, with whom you’ve been through battles before. They spoke freely and unfiltered.

• Riding back to Auburn from Springville, Ala. with Casey Mize’s parents. They offered a ride and I had been riding with Free Press photographer Kirt Dozier all weekend, so why not. For more than an hour, they interviewed me about my life.

• A nearly hour-long conversation with Auburn head baseball coach Butch Thompson, only a small part about Mize. At one point, the sports information director knocked on Thompson’s door and asked if he needed to get going. Thompson said no, we’re good, and kept going. Auburn’s series against LSU that weekend rekindled my love for college baseball, which proved to be much more fun than big league baseball.

Casey Mize waits to hear his name before being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft on Monday, June 4, 2018, in Auburn, Ala. Wade Rackley, Auburn Athletics

• A couple weeks later, nervous enough inside an auditorium most often used for Auburn football film studies, as the MLB Draft approached. I was pretty sure that the Tigers were going to select Mize, but I had not received a definitive answer. The thought of Mize’s name not being called was awkward and a bit terrifying.

• In one of those college baseball games, Minnesota took Washington to the brink of elimination in the Super Regionals in Seattle. Playing for Minnesota was infielder Terrin Vavra, the youngest son of Tigers quality control coach Joe Vavra. Terrin was drafted in the third round by the Rockies. That day, a rainy afternoon at Fenway Park, Joe sat inside the visitor’s dugout in disbelief as he answered text message after text message about it.

• A dinner in Boston; spontaneous, a nice move, when a player and his significant other invited me and another person to join them. I learned a few things about the player that night.

Detroit Tigers and now hall of famers Jack Morris and Alan Trammell with their hall of fame plaques that they were presented with at the Clark Sports Center during the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, NY on Sunday, July 29, 2018. Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press

• Finishing a story at probably 7 a.m. on Monday, July 30, the morning after Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. Driving back to the airport, I remember thinking that, no matter how many stories I write in my career, that weekend will never be beaten.

• Doing karaoke with a Tigers employee at the Barley House in Cleveland, the remix to ignition, hot and fresh out the kitchen. “Everybody in baseball knows about the Barley House,” one opposing player said this year.

• James McCann approaching two reporters after a loss in Anaheim on Aug. 7. “Do you guys need me?” he asked. “Uh, sure,” one said. Jacob Turner allowed eight runs in one inning that day. We were waiting to speak to him. I’m of the belief that McCann, who called his pitches, was trying to take the hit for Turner, who eventually appeared for questioning.

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann looks on as Los Angeles Angels left fielder Justin Upton rounds the bases after a home run in the fifth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Aug. 8, 2018. Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports

• McCann asking me a few days earlier if I picked up Edwin Jackson in my fantasy league, too. The Tigers got wind of a couple of my tweets from the previous night, tongue-in-cheekily making fun of their lack of offense, and the veterans were upset. I knew it was coming. I deserved it. Appreciated it, even. In these moments, you take note of who speaks up and who doesn’t.

• Next year’s clubhouse kid, 5-year-old Liam Castellanos, scaring the living crap out of his father on many nights, climbing and twisting and hanging on the team’s stretch machine in the middle of the clubhouse. I had been waiting all season for Liam to learn his lesson; so many times, he seemed destined to fall. He never did. The torch was officially passed after Victor Martinez’s final game, when he ran up to Martinez’ s son, Victor Jose, and asked why his dad was retiring. “Because he’s too old,” Victor Jose said.

• A last look at Martinez throwing batting practice to Victor Jose, the day before the regular season ended at Miller Park. What a moment it must have been for them. The next day, talking to Victor Jose in the dugout, he marveled over his dad’s career and said, “I want to play baseball for the rest of my life.” He asked if I could send him video of him hitting so he could study it. He’s well on his way.

• Nicholas Castellanos and Jim Adduci talking after a September loss. They were having a baseball conversation, their body language suggested, so I eavesdropped as close as I could without being obvious about it. They were talking about winning. One of them said something like, “If you have 25 guys moving those boxes together. …” Soon, Christin Stewart sat down in front of his locker and listened in.

Blaine Hardy of the Detroit Tigers throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on Sept. 28, 2018 in Milwaukee. Stacy Revere, Getty Images

• Walking past a woman wearing a Blaine Hardy jersey at the airport in Minnesota. Not many people own Hardy jerseys, so it had to be his wife, Nikki, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child. I had spoken to her briefly before, but it was cool to hear another side of Hardy. They are expecting a boy this off-season.

• A conversation with Chris Bosio in mid-May, finally breaking ground in our relationship. Bosio was elusive — he was the only coach I’ve covered that required media relations permission to speak — and at times, unapproachable. But on this afternoon in Texas, he could have talked until the sun came up. Bosio is a very smart pitching guy; he just wasn’t the right fit for this young team.

More: In firing Chris Bosio, Detroit Tigers prove that words still matter

• A conversation with Miguel Cabrera early in spring training, on the back fields, before anyone was out there. Cabrera was at ease. He was healthy and talking about baseball. Twice, he got up to sign autographs for fans. Upon returning, he picked up right where he left off, about hitting philosophies and playing first base. I think Cabrera, health-willing, will enjoy leading this young team next season.

• A phone call from George Sipple during the All-Star break, telling me that he was going to be leaving soon. Someone who was with me asked if everything was OK; my face looked like someone had died, she said.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull (56) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Benny Sieu, Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

• Watching Spencer Turnbull walk back and forth inside the haunted Pfister hotel in Milwaukee during the final weekend of the season. Turnbull had his headphones on, soaking the major league experience in. I have a good feeling about this kid.

• Pulling a prank on a self-acclaimed prankster. The delivery wasn’t great, but handing over the shock pen was a plan six months in the making. Heading into 2019, I suspect there is a huge target on my back.

• The many e-mails and tweets I received this season from readers, Tigers fans who live and die by the team no matter how good or bad they are. You guys make everything go; eventually, I will catch-up on my e-mails. As is evident nearly every road trip, no fans travel like Tigers fans. Thank you for reading this season, I appreciate it.

Contact Anthony Fenech: afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech.

From the 2018 Detroit Tigers season

Detroit Tigers' Jose Iglesias bids farewell to fans in Instagram post

Grading the 2018 Detroit Tigers: A few A's in a failing season

 

 

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