Outside the bedroom window all was quiet as the night time chill began gathering in readiness of becomming the familiar autumnal early morning mist that would await the villages early risers. Although an ocean and half a continent away, courtesy of one of the endless satelites that circle above us, inside the bedroom Brandon Inge was striking out for the last time in 2006.
"Did they win?" my girlfriend enquired, awoken from her slumber by the sudden loss of the MLB international commentary that had been accompanying her dreams.
"Never mind, there’s always next year." she responded before nestling back into the land of dreams.
At that moment her words had little comfort and as I lay there wide awake, courtesy of the 3.00 a.m. espresso I’d drank as insurance against extra innings, I decided that for now rather than ponder next year I would replay the delights that had been 2006. The optimism that greeted every new season had, for the first time in over a decade, gathered momentum as the Tigers kept on winning and I along with every other Tiger fan had rode that wave until it finally broke on the shores of St Louis. In those dark early October morning hours there were two highlights that kept replaying in my mind. The first was that of watching Joel Zumaya firing in 100+ mph fastballs that exploded into Pudge’s mit. They required a new viewing skill that my eyes never quite mastered, namely ‘watching’ the pitch and then diverting the attention to see the radar reading, as I was too often caught in the initial open mouthed "wow" to notice the mph reading in the corner of the screen. The second, and more enduring, was that of Kenny Rogers pitching displays throughout the play offs with that game against the Yankees being my personal favourite.
Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland though, it seemed, had heard my girlfriends consolling words because almost before you could say "Off-season" they had traded for Gary Sheffield, secured Sean Casey’s return and effectively ensured the winter months would not be spent checking for trades or free agent signings.
Winter in the village ambled along as life in the village has a habit of doing. The ‘temporary’ traffic lights on the southern approach to the village celebrated their second birthday. The local store/post office continued it’s sterling rear guard fight against the removal of its post office status as Blair continued his assault on rural living. We enjoyed our 48 hours of snow in early February that saw our school, along with every other in the county, closed as children with their sleds demonstrated a greater readiness for the white stuff than the local authorities. One of the joys of an English winter is that we get a couple of days off work thanks to the road agencies and local authorities inability to deal with even the mildest of snow falls.
All the while, of course, ‘Next Year’ was getting closer and the retention of nearly all of the 2006 Tigers together with the addition of Gary Sheffield kept bringing back my girlfriends words. As the players finally made their long anticipated return in sunny Florida I was encouraged to read, with rain lashing against the windows, of how focussed they all seemed and of how they had collectively bought into Leylands mantra that 2006 was to be confined to the memory banks. I decided that it was now time for me to buy into this mantra as well so signed up for the MLB Premium TV package. The pound/dollar exchange rate made doing so a bargain as did the knowledge that for me every Tiger game is ‘out of market’. The cable channel here NASN has promised even more live games will be shown as part of their 2007 schedule and the Tigers success should ensure they will feature in a greater number of these than previous years.
Everything I have seen and read coming out of Florida to date has meant that the pre-season hope all fans enjoy has been accompanied by a greater dose of belief than previous years and with every passing day next year’s almost here.