On The Edge Of Greatness

Congratulations to my Detroit Tigers on their sweep of the New York Yankees earning them a trip to their eleventh World Series!  Well, let’s be real here…it was more than just a sweep.  It was a drubbing.  It was a pounding.  It was one of the most dominant displays of baseball in a seven game series in recent memory.  And right alongside of what happened on the field, what happened off the field was just as moving and just as important.

Sure, there are some pretty astounding facts and records from the Yankees series.  The starting pitching, led by Justin Verlander, was outstanding.  They were in shutdown mode.  Delmon Young‘s MVP performance was pure baseball.  Young batted in the game winning run in every game of the series.  Let’s face it, the Yankees didn’t score much, but someone had to knock in the winning runs!  In the long history of the Tigers, Delmon Young has become their all-time post season home run leader and he’s only been with the team for two post seasons!  Yes, we saw Jose Valverde implode a couple of times in save situations, but Phil Coke was at the ready to step in and become the door-slamming force the team needed.  Everybody contributed in this series – it wasn’t all about Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  And I don’t know if anyone can stop them from winning the World Series.  As I said in this blog just before the season started, if the starting pitchers, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder can stay healthy, no one will be able to stop the Tigers.  FACT.

As Detroiters know, this season, this series, and the upcoming World Series is about more than just baseball.  It’s partially about redemption.  It’s about a pride and a spirit the city has in itself and its people.  It’s about the same work ethic that built the city and made it a leader for so many decades, and that same roll up the sleeves and get the job done mentality is rebuilding the city today.  It’s a step forward for Detroit to redefine itself through the character of each and every member of the Tigers organization. 

It’s about players like Don Kelly who isn’t a starter but always keeps himself ready so when the call comes, he can step in and do his job, like coming in as a pinch hitter and hitting the sacrifice fly that won game 5 of the divisional series against Oakland.  Justin Verlander, who besides being the premier pitcher in baseball, can show just how much of a genuine guy he is while wearing a microphone and headset in the dugout in game four against the Yankees.  After all the accolades he has accumulated, after all the no-hitters he’s thrown, he is still just a kid who plays a game he loves and he represents the city he plays for with pride.  While on the headset during game four he provided some insight as to why this Tigers team is so special.  Miguel Cabrera, in his post game interview, made it very clear how proud he is to represent the city of Detroit.  The guy can hardly speak a lick of English, but we understood perfectly what he was saying.  Four more wins, Detroit.  Four more wins and we win it for Detroit.

Detroiters know the character and dedication of Tigers owner Mike Illitch.  It’s been proven to them through Mr. Illitch’s dedication to the city through youth hockey.  He has championed several efforts to make Detroit a vital city by providing funding for several projects in the city, making investment after investment directly into the core of the city and its people.  In 1982 he purchased the Red Wings and restored the proud franchise to dominance with his true committment to winning.  He bought the Tigers in 1992 and although it has taken longer to bring the Tigers back to winning ways, he achieved it using the same formula – do whatever it takes to win and do it with people of quality character.  One thing that makes Mr. Illitch unique is he understands the value of bringing fans into the seats and entertaining them with a quality product that shows an honest effort every night.  He knows the people of Detroit and he knows you can’t fool them with a sub-par performance.

And so, as the moment became his during the post game trophy presentation after his Detroit Tigers swept the Yankees, Mr. Illitch first thanked the three million-plus fans who paid their hard earned-money and filed into Comerica Park to see his team put an honest effort onto the field every game.  He thanked them for their support and their dedication and he told them how they made a real difference.  Without even thinking about it, he was telling the story of how Detroiters did the same thing for the Tigers that he has done for the city itself.  And just as with Red Wings fans, Tigers fans along with Mike Illitch share ownership of their sports teams and their city.  As they go, the city goes.  It is a partnership that can only mean great things for the city in the future. 

This cannot be denied.  Neither can the Detroit Tigers.

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