Tigers impressed by their hearty fans
DETROIT — Detroit Tigers fans are a hardy bunch, which the players appreciate.
They didn’t let a little swirling snow and freezing temperatures prevent them from attending a sold-out TigerFest at Comerica Park.
The line circled around the ballpark before the gates opened.
Catcher Alex Avila is a veteran of these events.
"I’m not surprised because I’ve been doing this for five years, seeing the support we get," Avila said. "It’s still incredible every year that they come support us in weather like this.
"When I had to walk through to get to one of the autograph sessions, going outside, I was freezing. People were standing in line in that for hours. It’s just incredible."
Jose Iglesias, who didn’t join the Tigers until right before last year’s trade deadline, was getting his first taste of TigerFest.
"Amazing experience, I’ll tell you that," Iglesias said. "Cold, by the way, but it’s been great to be right next to the fans and see how much they want us to win and how much they support us all year long.
"I’m just blessed to be part of this beautiful event."
Iglesias even went so far as to call the snow pretty, but that’s because he gets to leave Detroit for warmer climates now that the Winter Caravan and TigerFest are over.
New manager Brad Ausmus has been to TigerFest before, but it was a long time ago, when the team often held the event in the warmer confines of Joe Louis Arena.
Of course, Ausmus is getting different questions than the ones he had when he was a Tigers player.
"The one thing that gets asked the most is about the lineup," Ausmus said. "’Who’s hitting where? Who’s leading off? where’s Miggy hitting?’ That type of stuff."
So what is Ausmus’ response?
"My answer is, I don’t have to make that decision yet," Ausmus said. "I have some ideas. I’ve written some possibilities down. I’ve run it by the coaching staff.
It’s still incredible every year that they come support us in weather like this.
Tigers catcher Alex Avila on the fans who brave the snow and cold to attend TigerFest
"But I don’t know for sure what it’s going to be, and there’s no point to saying what it’s going to be."
Ausmus said many of the fans who remember him from his early playing days have welcomed him back.
"It’s all positive, at least to my face," Ausmus said. "I don’t know what they’re saying behind my back or on the radio."
Tigers president and general manager Dombrowski said he’s had an opportunity to get to know Ausmus better since he hired him.
"He’s very sharp," Dombrowski said. "He’s a good person. He’s got a good pulse of dealing with people and players. I really like him.
"I guess I haven’t been back where I’ve said, ‘Well, I didn’t anticipate this, I didn’t anticipate that.’ He comes across as he did in the interview process.
"He’s a very confident individual, but not cocky. He asks a lot of questions. He’s been talking to some of the coaches, getting their input."
Former manager Jim Leyland remains part of the organization but has said he doesn’t want to come to spring training too early and be in Ausmus’ way, but Dombrowski said Ausmus doesn’t feel that way.
"Brad asked me the other day, ‘When’s Jim coming?’" Dombrowski said. "I said Feb. 25, and he said, ‘Oh, if he wants to be there from the first day, I’d love to have him.’
Ausmus went on to tell Dombrowski that he wanted Leyand to know that he’s welcome anytime because Ausmus would "pick his brain all the time."
Dombrowski did a question-and-answer session with Tigers play-by-play broadcaster Dan Dickerson and 97.1 the Ticket radio host Pat Caputo.
Caputo said the question he was getting most from fans was about whether Dombrowski might want to be commissioner when Bud Selig retires.
"I take it as a compliment to have my name mentioned, but that doesn’t mean anything," Dombrowski said. "It’s just rumors.
"I have a job that I enjoy very much with the Detroit Tigers organization, and enjoy what I do and that’s my total focus."