Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tigers know how to put the fun back in professional baseball (Oct. 06 Manistee News Advocate)

Associate Editor
The October classic is made of stories like this one. Forty-one year old Kenny Rogers has now thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings in the post-season, now third on the record list for such a task.Watching the veteran pitch on Sunday night was entertaining, not only because he is so hot right now, but because it is great to see how much he is enjoying himself -- talking to himself on the mound, spinning around when a strike call goes the other way, cheering on Pudge and his fielders when they make a good play or pitch call. This is baseball at its finest.In this age of prima donna players, star endorsement deals, free agent salary holdouts, and bad boy athletes, its fantastic to see a player like Rogers who is enjoying the game for what it is: a game.Craig Monroe said it best when he was interviewed after their win against the Cardinals Sunday. He remarked how he was just trying to have fun and enjoy every minute of this world series experience, and remembered how this is what he dreamed about and imagined himself doing when he played in the backyard growing up.That’s what it’s all about. Being 12 years old and hitting a tennis ball in the backyard with an aluminum bat. Making up your own rules; past the oak tree is a hit, above the hedge is a home-run, using ghost runners when you don’t have enough guys -- and most important of all, calling which players you get to pretend to be. It was also fun to imagine your own game situations -- bottom of the ninth, tying run on second, cleanup hitter up...This year’s Tiger squad represents all of the fun we remember from those childhood experiences, win or lose. Here is a bunch of guys who clearly enjoy baseball and play it for the love of the game. With their rally hats, “gum-time” and the joy they show when they get a clutch run or important win, it’s as fun to watch how they play baseball as it is to watch the actual game.How often do you see a professional sports team go into the locker-room, grab the champagne, and bring it out onto the field to celebrate with their fans? And how many times do you see an interview when the players praise each other more than themselves? Just watch an after game interview with a member of this year’s Tigers.Here is a team that is, as Kenny Rogers says, “doing it for the fans,” and glad to do it for them. There isn’t any talk of personal achievements, dissention in the locker room over changes in fielding assignments or batting roster changes, or the other kind of prima-donna behavior we are so used to seeing in professional sports today.The 2006 Detroit Tiger team is just that -- a team. A group of guys who are raising the standard of what a team can do if they are given the chance. They play for the fans and for the fun of it all.Win or lose, they have a ton of class, good sportsmanship, and are a model to young and old athletes and fans everywhere, of any sport.And if anyone deserves to take the World Series crown it’s these guys -- the team of destiny.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

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