in which Brandon Inge gives the blogger a very nice commencement present

photo by Samara Pearlstein

So this past Sunday. There was a Tigers game, and it was won in marvelous fashion, and I was there.

If you’re lazy and don’t want to read about it, you can leap over to the photo set and poke around there. All of the photos there, and, obviously, all the photos here, are miiiine. Except the ones that have me in them. My mother took those.

We weren’t supposed to win this game. It was to be Bonderman/Santana, an exciting matchup, but rainout had pushed everyone up a day, and nobody expected Maroth, Exceptional though his Mental Makeup may be*, to hold his own against Johan Santana. Johan Santana is not just a pitcher; he is a two-time All Star and a two-time Cy Young winner and what is Mike Maroth? Mike Maroth has an Exceptional Mental Makeup and an 87 mph fastball.

Mike Maroth decided that today was going to be the day he went toe-to-toe with Johan Santana. Look at this. Just LOOK AT IT.

Johan Santana: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
Mike Maroth: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

Either Santana is not supposed to pitch that poorly, or Maroth is not “supposed” to pitch that well. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We got to the ballpark early, which turned out to be a good move, because there was a particular lot we had to park in and all the roads around it, pretty much, were blocked off. We still made it into the park with about an hour, hour and a half ’til gametime, which meant that I had time to go bum around by the dugout for visiting BP.

You can see Torii’s lip is all swollen from where he got hit in the face by Zack Greinke’s pitch. He still hung around and signed for a bit, which is more than any other Twin did (I don’t exactly blame them; the crowd begging for autographs was mostly older teenagers/kids in their early 20s, and most of them had whole albums or boxes of cards with them). Over on the Tigers’ side, Kenny Rogers signed things from the dugout. Well, not like he had anything better to be doing.

We got a bit of a surprise with the first pitch…

Calvin Johnson, who had just been drafted the day before. Poor guy has no idea what he’s got himself into. The Lions will find a way to ruin him and break his spirit sooner or later.

The game began uneventfully, the best bit coming in the top of the 2nd, when Mike Redmond tried to go to third on a pop out to left field, only to get himself thrown out by Craig for the last out of the inning. It was an uncharacteristically sloppy Twin play, but was happy good times for almost everyone in the ballpark.

I am extraordinarily happy to report that, perhaps due to the sudden increase in revenue a team that can actually play baseball has brought to Detroit, Paws has a new suit (pelt? self?). Last season I was calling him “the most moth-eaten of all mascots”. Also deformed. He is still moderately deformed, but not nearly as bad as he once was, and the scraggly fleece of the old Paws has been replaced by tidy neon orange fur that does not look like it houses a thousand fleas and five different species of mold. As you can see, despite the least flattering angle ever (ladies, if you get your photo taken with a mascot, make sure you are a couple steps BELOW the camera-wielder, not above them), I have verified this shiny new Paws myself.

Roar of the Tigers: always striving for the very best in baseball reporting.

It was around this time where I discovered that our seats were so situated that I could see into the home dugout. We had very good seats but weren’t right on top of the field or anything… this was our view, with no zoom–

–so you can see that I had to stretch the zoom a bit to see into the dugout. But I’m like a dumb lab rat. Give me a tiny little crumb and I’ll keep pressing the lever, even though I get a mild electrical shock every time. I only need a tiny incentive to keep me going. And in this case, even slightly fuzzy glances of Tigers in the dugout was enough to keep me happily, if fairly fruitlessly, snapping away.

Craig and Carlos, doin’ their dugout thing.

Brandon Inge, natch. You can guess what my memory card was full of.

Now, what none of these photos show was the sheer power of the sun that day. It started out in the mid-70s, quite comfortable, and quickly rose up closer to 80 in the sun. In the shade it was still pleasant, but with the sun beating directly down on us, I thought I was going to melt into my seat (it did not help that I was already burnt a lovely shade of Red Sox red… which was the fault of a previous, very sunny baseball game). It did not heat up to the level of the most disgustingly hot baseball game I have ever attended, but it came pretty close.

And there’s Maroth in the dugout, sporting his sweatshirt. Oy. I know it’s important to keep your arm warm and loose, but shouldn’t there be some kind of fine line between ‘warm’ and ‘overheating until dead and crispy’?

Pudge was in fine form today (this was pre-beaning-himself-in-the-head-with-his-own-bat-and-breaking-it) on the pitcher-love front. This is often overlooked when people talk about what a great catcher he is, but Pudge Rodriguez is one of the most touchy-feely catchers in the majors. More than anyone playing today, when he goes out to the mound, he’s likely to be grabbin’ at his pitchers. And because he’s Pudge and he’s been in the league for 60 years, he does it right.

He likes to rest his hand on Zoom’s chest. It’s the perfect gesture for someone who tends to get riled up and a little full of his own ability, which Zoom does. It kind of says ‘woah, hold on there buddy, calm down now’ while at the same time it’s saying ‘hey, here I am, I’m here for you, I have faith in you’. Which sounds lame, I’m aware, but if you think about it, it’s true. Exactly what Zoom needs to hear, and exactly what he needed for this game, because he gave up a walk to start his outing but immediately thereafter got a hold of himself and erased a preexisting triple from the basepaths.

Todd Jones is older, more demonstrative himself, and can tolerate a stepped-up version of Pudge lovin’. Obviously. Curiously enough, this hug was quite prolonged, a full minute or two long, and it came AFTER Jonesy had pitched a clean 9th. You’d think it could wait ’til the dugout, but apparently it had to be done on the field. Adorkable.

Perhaps due in part to the heat, there were a lot of home runs (for a game at Comerica). Torii Hunter homered in the 6th, and Maggs and The River Thames homered in the 3rd and 4th respectively.

Much joy to all. Chad Durbin, for whatever reason, was right in the thick of most of the celebrations.

None of these blasts, however, compared in any way to the sweetest one. The most magnificent one. The last one.

All knotted up at 3 heading into the bottom of the 9th, and I was DESPERATE for someone to win, because my camera batteries were going to die if we went to extras. I expressed this emergency to my mother. Brandon Inge stepped up to the plate. My mother turned to me and said, no word of a lie, (admittedly a little sarcastically), “Don’t worry, I bet he hits it out right here.”
Lo and behold.

He did.

Brandon Inge, he of the struggling bat, hit a HOME RUN. Not just any homerun, but a GAME-WINNING, WALK OFF HOME RUN. In the very first at-bat of the inning.

I walked in commencement ceremonies the day before this game (‘tho I’m not graduating yet… long story). If someone asks me “WHO’S YOUR TIGER!”, I have to say Brandon Inge. Obviously, Brandon Inge wanted to give me a nice commencement present, and did so by hitting like a ridiculous crazy hitting machine (3-for-3 on the day).

Walkoff home run by Brandon Inge. The crowd went NUTS. INSANE. I didn’t see him do the little helmet fake-toss he made. Heck, I barely saw him rounding the bases. I was too busy jumping up and down and squealing like a catdamned fool. My throat hurt still yesterday from screaming so much. Who cares? Everyone else in the ballpark was behaving exactly the same way. I had on my “Ingecredible!” shirt; a guy in the family next to us had a number 15 jersey that had the nameplate printed with “NOTORIOUS” (as in, you know… the Notorious I-N-G-E). I was among like-minded folk.

In short, a perfect day for baseball, with a more than perfect ending. It could not, in fact, have worked out much more perfectly… especially for a Brandon Inge fan.

*Exceptional Mental Makeup Mike is an old nickname for Maroth that nobody in the known universe uses except for this here site. It comes from an old scouting report, probably an ESPN one, back when they had those available to everyone, that referenced his bounce-back from the ’03 season as evidence of his “exceptional mental makeup”. The rest, as no one but me says, is Roar of the Tigers history.


5 responses to “in which Brandon Inge gives the blogger a very nice commencement present

  1. Dave B Wagner

    I hope a picture with Paws was worth whatever godforsaken disease you almost certainly contracted

  2. It was a good game. I know you were happy when your boy hit that home run. I scooted around the home dugout and third base line with the rest of the autograph seekers.

  3. Dave, totally worth it. He matches my hat; I had to.
    Lauren, happy does not even begin to cover it.

  4. […] Roar of the Tigers | MVN – Most Valuable Network

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