Getting You Through the Detroit Tigers Rebuild

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About

Why I'm a Tigers Fan
By Ben Rosener 

The 2006 season was a special one for me. It was the season I fell in love with baseball and the Tigers.
Let me provide some backstory. One day at some point in 2006 I needed a hat for some kind of function. I don’t remember exactly what it was. I was all of 10 at the time. Maybe it was a school function? It was definitely something to do with my friends. Anyways, my mom and I ventured to Target to purchase said hat.
Once at Target we ventured further back into the store to the men’s section with the large grid of baseball hats—I still remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday. I hadn’t bought a hat for a while and hadn’t really gotten into professional baseball all that much—if at all.
After perusing the hats, I decided on a Tigers hat. It came down to two things, one my favorite color was (and still is) orange. And two, perhaps most importantly given my affinity for family, was that I had a lot of family in Detroit (I should point out here that I was born, raised and still live in the greater Seattle area). Both my grandparents were born and raised in Detroit, and a large portion of my family still lives in Michigan.
So, I have deep Detroit ties.
Anyways, Tigers hat in hand we left the store. (I recognize that sentence implies shoplifting, but it was in fact purchased.)
Later in the year at a summer camp my buddy Will says to me, “Hey, you know the Tigers have the best record in baseball right now?” Or something very similar to that. Bottom line, the Tigers were really good. I hadn’t been a huge sports guy up until that point. Sure, I played all the sports, but I was 10. I was still figuring things out.
And then I got into baseball.
And I was hooked.
I had always loved facts and stats about things (and still do) so baseball was perfect for me. I loved watching games. I loved having a team to route for and be invested in. All the trappings of why we as humans love sports.
And then the 2006 stretch run and postseason happened.
It was a magical season for everyone. Fans, players, coaches, everyone with some kind connection to the Tigers. However major or minor.
For long-time fans it was magical, but for someone who was diving into the deep end of fandom for the first time it was one of the greatest and most engrossing things I’d ever seen.
To see the Tigers cast aside the favored Yankees in four games was phenomenal. To see them put away the also-favored Athletics in four games was enthralling. To see Magglio Ordonez hit that home run off Huston Street and run towards first base with his raised fist and finger in the air was the absolute best.
I remember where I was when that happened. I remember running down stairs to tell my mom that the Tigers were going to the World Series and how cool it was that not only were they going, but how exceptionally cool it was that they punched their ticket on a walk-off home run.
I was 10, so ergo the usage of the word “cool” so often.
That walk-off home run into the left field stands at Comerica Park is perhaps my favorite baseball memory and perhaps my most treasured sports memory. No, in all my years since of being a massive sports fan, that one takes the cake. I’ve seen championships from other teams I’m a fan of. I’ve seen phenomenal plays on big stages. But nothing quite comes close to that home run and that moment.
Because from that moment on I was all-in as a Tigers fan for life. I probably was before that, but that was the clincher. And really, nothing quite compares to being a Tigers fan.
I have other teams in other sports that I route for passionately, none of them will come close to the Tigers in terms of importance for me. They’ll try and come close, but the Tigers will always take the cake. All because of what started for me during that magical season in 2006.
We won’t talk about the ensuing World Series after Magglio’s home run, but there’s no denying the impact the Tigers had on me during that season.
Also, the impact they had on the field. Many on that roster had career years. Like, case in point, Jeremy Bonderman was a 5.6 (!) fWAR pitcher that year. Joel Zumaya, blazing fastball and all, turned in a 2.0 fWAR campaign as a rookie. For reference, only nine pitchers in baseball last year topped the 2.0 mark and Zumaya accomplished that feat in his first taste of Major League action.
Kenny Rogers didn’t allow a run in 23 postseason innings. Carlos Guillen had his best season as a pro, coming this close to being a 6.0-win shortstop (his fWAR in 2006 was 5.8). Craig Monroe mashed a career-best 28 home runs.
Justin Verlander was a rookie on that team. Players like Ordonez, Verlander, Brandon Inge, Curtis Granderson and Pudge Rodriguez became some of my favorite players. And to this day they’re all amongst my favorite athletes of all time.
In the ensuing years I’ve followed the Tigers with an undying passion right up there with your most passionate, die-hard fans (if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them).
Fortunately for me I got pretty ok at the whole writing thing, so at a certain point when I was in high school I decided to merge my passion for the Tigers with my writing passion and talents. Flash forward 10 more years and you get to… well… right now. Here we are. Me writing about the Tigers and people like yourself reading it.
Maybe if this rebuild can kick into a higher gear here, we can have a repeat of 2006 some year soon. One complete with a magical moment of its own that brings the younger generation into the die-hard fandom fold. Because I know as well as anyone how engrossing a season complete with a deep October run can be for a young fan.
Until then I’m still going to keep writing about the Tigers. Playing armchair general manager. Writing trade idea and analysis pieces. All the usual stuff you’ve become accustomed to here on this page.
And when that next magical season comes, I’ll be writing about it, and we’ll all be watching it, reveling in it together.  

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