illustration by Samara Pearlstein, autograph by BRANDON INGE
Brandon Inge signed my sketchbook. This is a real actual thing that actually happened in the real world.
As some of you may already know, I don’t really do the whole autograph hunt bit. I REALLY don’t like bugging the players, or (for instance) fighting with little kids for prime positioning after BP or whatever. This is a small part of why I like taking photos: you get something that is as personal as an autograph, in the sense that it’s unique to you and the ballplayer, but you don’t have to bother them. Heck, they don’t even have to look directly at you.
I got to the ballpark early, knowing full well that there would be no BP, but figuring that if worst came to worst I could just chill out in the seats and draw (I knew ahead of time our seats were under cover). So I got into the concourse right after the gates opened. There’s a small roped-off area near the entrance I use for these seats; sometimes player family members and whatnot are standing in there. Today, as I came in, Brandon Inge was standing there, being interviewed by Ryan Field. There were two or three fans watching this.
Naturally enough I hastily got out my camera, figuring I would take a few pictures since I was MERE FEET away from Brandon Inge. This I did. The interview ended, and one of the few fans watching came up to ask Inge to sign her jersey (a Verlander jersey, if I recall correctly). There were no small children around, there was no huge press of people, and Inge didn’t seem like he was in a terrible hurry, probably because there would be no regular BP.
HOLY CATS, thinks I, I can totally get something signed. Do I have anything he can sign? Oh yeah only THIS ENTIRE SKETCHBOOK.
It just so happened that at my last Sox game, I had some downtime before my seat buddy arrived and had used that time to start drawing the seat view. So I had a mostly-completed drawing of Fenway, with all this empty space on the infield because I hadn’t finished filling in the grass yet. IT’S BASEBALL-RELATED, IT’S PERFECT. It would have been better if it was a Tigers drawing, and not a wonky sketch of Fenway Park, but whatever.
So, yeah. He signed it. I did not behave in an embarrassing fashion, although my screamingly orange hat was probably embarrassing enough on its own. I MAY or MAY NOT have fired off some capslock text messages shortly after this occurred, but I think you will all agree that is a very restrained reaction.
Then Dave Dombrowski walked by and said, “Hi Brandon!” and even though he was not wearing a striped shirt, the moment was still full of magic and spectacular hair.
THEN I went outside and looked at the tarp and sighed sadly, but my sadness was transformed into wonder because LITTLE VICTOR WAS ON THE FIELD and he was in FULL UNIFORM. And it got even better, because Little Victor was out there playing catch. With LITTLE PAPI. Who was ALSO in full uniform! And Little Papi was wearing the home whites, while Little Victor had on his appropriate Tigers away uni. They played normal catch for a bit, then Little Victor went down into a CATCHER’S CROUCH and it was just too much. I don’t even particularly like small children, but this was so adorable that it was almost painful. I do have photos, but you are going to have to wait because I am so backed up on processing etc.
Mark Schlereth was on the field before the game and he kept making various other Tigers take photos of him with Daniel around the park. Like, hey, Mark and Daniel standing on the infield! Mark and Daniel standing in front of the Monster! DON KELLY HOLD THIS CAMERA. Wonderful. At one point Brad Penny came over and led them into the Monster, because Brad Penny was on the Sox, however briefly, and I guess he’s allowed.
What of the game itself? Well, let us put it this way: given the weather, and the pitching matchup, this could have gone far, far worse than it did. I was expecting all sorts of unpleasantness. Brutally long rain delays, Phil Coke meltdowns, people being mean to Victor, etc.
None of that happened! We had one rain delay, but it was brief, and it wasn’t even that bad for me personally because I was under cover (we did get heavily misted all game long, and it was cold, but being under cover meant that we didn’t get soaked during the one downpour). Phil Coke went toe-to-toe with Clay Buchholz and pitched not just well, but EXTREMELY well. We kept just shaking our heads and laughing, because of course tomorrow’s game is supposed to be a Verlander/Beckett match, and that should be the great pitching duel… but we got a great pitching duel TONIGHT.
Phil Coke gave up zero runs in 7 innings. Phil Coke! Phil Coke did this very thing! He threw only 78 pitches in his 7 innings, which is probably the most efficient a Tigers pitcher has been this year. He allowed only three hits (all singles), and only issued one walk. All this occurred on a cold, rainy, windy night, where the mound could not have been in great shape, the visibility was awful even over relatively short distances, and the ball probably felt like a slippery lump of granite. Phil Coke goes out in that and dominates. Scintillating, dazzling, again with the magic.
And Victor got a great big cheer his first time up to the plate. ALL AS IT SHOULD BE, even though the Tigers ultimately lost.