Opening day last year found me in France far removed from the world of baseball suffering from extreme food poisoning! This year, following an off-season in which Mr Ilitch allowed Dave Dombrowski to put together a lineup that most Fantasy players could only dream of, I determined would be different.
I’d had quite an off-season myself as I got engaged to my long suffering girlfriend and thus at a stroke put on ice my plans for a two-week summer baseball vacation at Comerica (weddings, honeymoons & fiances don’t come cheap!). The wonders of the internet mean that once again the Tigers will be playing their season out in my own English village.
I’d read all the previews, studiously studied the stats and decided that this was indeed the type of batting lineup that may only come along once in a lifetime so I was sure going to do all I could to enjoy this season despite the restrictions of cyberspace.
As Tigers fans packed into Comerica I was racing back from work to my fiances parents home (housesitting for the week). No sooner was I through the door than I was already logging onto my future father-in-laws pc and happily downloading the software & plug-ins required to maximise my enjoyment (I’m sure he’ll thank me when he returns). The picture wasn’t the best & I had to turn the sound off but live action was before my eyes. Just after 1’o’clock in Detroit and just after 6’o’clock in the UK Justin Verlander began the ’08 season.
Used to waking up in the middle of the night to find me watching baseball my fiance enquired how long I was likely to be “stuck in front of that computer?” as her sister was arriving and they were hoping to go out. The undertone of her enquiry implied I was expected to be going to. “Should be over by 9” I informed her and a compromise was reached as we could still enjoy a couple of hours down the pub (an opening day celebratory beer would go down nicely I reasoned).
The game seemed to be going well, Verlander pitching with confidence while that awesome lineup just kept on coming to the plate and seemed just an at bat away from breaking into a run fest. Mags carried off from where he’d left off last season hitting the ball with apparent ease and when Cabrera launched his first Detroit home run I shouted with delight. This caused my fiance & her sister to enquire what the fuss was about. As I began to enthusiastically explain all about Miguel Cabrera & his new contract & how The Tigers had put together this amazing lineup of baseball players to two confused looking english women those pesky Kansas City Royals went & got themselves back in the game. Even worse was to follow as they then went & took the lead (this wasn’t in the script). Thankfully the ever reliable Carlos Guillen tied things up but by now I was beginning to get the feeling that the Tigers bullpen was as shaky as all those experts had been predicting. But Todd Jones made it through the ninth and I confidently expected to see a walk off home run to round out opening day. Regrettably there was no walk off home run in the ninth and as the clock rolled well past 9 I was dragged away from the action (a deal is a deal & I had said 9) so I missed the Royals go ahead run in the 11th inning & I missed seeing both Renteria & Polanco failing to get the runner home in the bottom of the 11th.
It’s true that the game’s not played on paper and despite this opening day disappointment I am not going to abandon my pre-season predictions that the Tigers will pass the 100-win barrier this season, that the starting pitching & bullpen will do better than the experts predict and that come October I will be keeping a night time vigil as the Tigers play for the World Series.