Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Oakland A's Broadcaster Ray Fosse Talks Tigers

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

There is one position on the baseball diamond that I can relate to back during my days playing youth baseball.

It's being a catcher.

This is a position where many managers are hired.

This position, which is involved in every play, has much intrigued and is also my favorite position player to interview.

During my first two years playing, my father who managed my teams tried me at every position and I struggled.

But one day, our two starting catchers didn't show up and he asked who wanted to play the position?

I raised my hand as high as I could and I was quite loud during the 1973 season playing for the Southfield Wildcats.

He gave me a chance to play the position and I played so well that these other catchers never sat behind the dish
again. One of those catchers quit the team in the middle of the season.

Back then, I was about 4-5 and weighed around 60 pounds.

Unfortunately during that season, I lost my Grandfather Sidney Morganroth due to Cancer but our team went on to finish 21-0 and won the City Championship.

This was bitter sweet.

But I enjoyed warming up the pitchers during innings, talking to the umpires and batter, all while  getting in their head to distract them, and framing balls and turning them into strikes.

I also took a beating behind the dish getting drilled with foul balls and was in my fair share of collisions. But that was the nature of the position and I liked being involved in every play.

Over the years, some of the catchers I've interviewed were Lance Parrish, James McCann, Brad Ausmus, Jake Rogers and now Ray Fosse.

I've enjoyed everyone of these and we definitely speak the same language.

Fosse, 71 is an interesting story.

He played MLB from 1967-1979.

He appeared in two All-Star Games in 1970 and 1979.

He won a pair of World Series Championships in 1973 and 1974 with the Oakland A's.

He also won two Gold Glove Awards and had a career fielding percentage of .986.

Fosse played in 924 games and had a career average of .256 with 61 HR and 324 RBI.

His 12-year career was marked by injuries.

But Fosse was best known on the diamond for what happened during the 1970 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was a member of the Cleveland Indians at this time.

On the last play of the game, he was involved in an incident with Pete Rose as he was barreled into in what was an extreme collision.

These are definitely uncommon in an exhibition game and this situation is prominently seen in MLB All-Star highlights.

Fosse has been a color commentator for the Oakland A's on NBC Sports California since 1986.

As I spoke to him in Mesa, AZ., I was amazed at how much he knew about baseball and he was very knowledgeable and candid when we spoke.

This was long before we knew that the small market Oakland A's, who are 90-60 as of this post, and barring an unlikely collapse appear to be headed to the playoffs.

We had a great conversation and I hope all of you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed talking to Ray.

Q: There is no way that I can have an interview with you without asking what it was like to be bowled over by Pete Rose in the All Star Game?

A: I was very happy to be on the All-Star Team and Earl Weaver picked me to be on the team. Bill Freehan started and I got in the game. It was very unfortunate one of those things happened. It's a changed game and that wouldn't happen today just because of a lot of situations. First of all, you can't do it. I wasn't trying to block the plate. I was going where Amos Otis had thrown the ball. As it turned out, it was up the line and the rest was history.

Q: Would you say that Miguel Cabrera's one of the best pure hitters you've ever seen?

A: I think in today's world, to see how smart of a player he is, I caught behind and tried to pitch to some of the great's
like Rod Carew, for example, one of the best hitters I've ever seen.

But you know if you think about what Cabrera does today and how he makes adjustments, I think that puts him in a category by himself.

Q: To preface what you're saying, how impressed were you when Cabrera won a triple crown and that's awfully hard to do?

A: Well especially, a triple crown you're going to have power or you're going to hit for average, but to do all of those things that's to me as great of a hitter as he is. I can't remember the pitcher of the A's had but Miguel came back from the birth of a child, he hadn't been with the club for three to four days, he came back and took early batting practice. The first at bat he hit a home run to right field and the second home run to left field. I said you've got to be kidding me! Here's a guy that hadn't of picked up a bat in three or four days.

Again, to be one of the best hitters he is, it's fun to watch him. He's a fun loving guy and I think he plays the game the right way. To have fun with the fans when he goes to the sidelines and gives them a baseball and does things. This is a game where you want fan experience. I think between being a great hitter, a great person, he exudes that when he's on the field especially with the fans.

Q: Of all the hitters you've seen over your lifetime, would you easily put Miguel Cabrera in your top five or 10?

A: Absolutely! I'd say so because again, I was behind the plate for many hitters that Harmon Killebrew for example was a big power hitter. Like I said, Rod Carew, it's hard to pitch him any particular way. But I think Cabrera, his intelligence of the game, he knows his swing, the hitters, the pitchers and he knows what he needs to do. I haven't seen a hitter as good as him.

With the new schedule the way it is with the A's facing the Tigers seven times a year, I think it's better. He's such a good hitter no matter the times they play.

Just a footnote here: The Oakland A's won the season series 7-0 this year as Cabrera missed all the contests due to injury.

Q: What are your thoughts about Jack Morris and Alan Trammell finally getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Was this long overdue?

A: I think these guys were long overdue. What's interesting about Alan Trammell and the Tigers starting 35-5 in 1984, with him and Lou Whitaker at the top of the batting order, they'd get on and it would be runners at first and third. Then somebody would drive them in. It seemed like they were on all the time.

But to have a double play combination like that as long as Trammell and Whitaker were, I'm happy for Alan. He's very unassuming. He doesn't tout himself so I'm sure he's ecstatic.

For Jack Morris to pitch as well as he did against the Atlanta Braves winning Game Seven for Minnesota in 1991, 1-0 in 10 innings, no body is going to do that today.

You're going to go six or seven innings max. But Morris kept going out and he was the best pitcher for that. He said, I'm going to go and he kept going. I don't think there is any doubt that both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. But like you said, it's too bad it took so long, but eventually they did get in.

Q: Why do you think Whitaker hasn't even sniffed the Hall of Fame?

A: I think a lot of that has to do with offensive numbers unfortunately. The fact that they (Alan & Lou) played so long together, you'll never see that again as long as they did as a double play combination. But Lou was Lou. It is unfortunate but defense isn't as recognized that much anymore. It's more what you do offensively.

Even though in that particular year (1984 World Series Champions) both Lou and Alan had have tremendous seasons leading off for the Tigers. I'm sure the late Sparky Anderson is already there with both of them in. But at least Trammel is in now.

Q: Do you feel the Detroit Tigers are going about things the right way by rebuilding?

A: I think you eventually have to do that because under the late Mike Ilitch, it was different. I know for Al Avila, it's different for him because maybe the resources aren't there anymore. That's why the late Gene Autry unfortunately didn't get a World Championship and he spent a lot of money. Michael Ilitch spent a lot of money. You spend the money and it doesn't guarantee anything.

So to do it the right way, the problem speaking of Miguel Cabrera, he makes a lot of money, and nobody is going to pick up that contract even though he is the best player in the game. He makes a lot of money. I'd say he's still young enough (age 35) and you can still build around him.

When you have to eventually make that commitment to do the things you have to do to get back to respectability, and even if it means tearing it down and going to young players, so be it. The heck with the people that say you're tanking and trying to get draft choices. No you're not! You're trying to develop a good ballclub for the future.

I look at the A's right now. Everybody says low payroll. Well yes, they're young players. Those players eventually get paid. After three years arbitration and free agency after six years. You're going to get your money if you're good. But still, I can't knock the organization for doing it the right way.

In the Tigers case, you have to do it and more power to them. When you look at the past three World Series Champions, the Astros, the Cubs and the Royals, all of those clubs were bad not that long ago. And then they're World Series Champions. You have to do it the right way.

You have to think about the future and the thing is to be honest with the fans. Let them know this is the core group of guys that will be good and we're going to build. The Astros did it the right way. They lost 100, used their young guys and brought in veterans and they supplement what you have.

Q: What are your thoughts about Ron Gardenhire?

A: He loves cheeseburgers. I'm sure he still does. I think the game would be wrong to say that managers like Ron Gardenhire, Bob Melvin and even Joe Girardi, which that firing was unjustified. He was one guy that managed 10 years and one of the most successful managers in baseball.

I'm happy for Ron Gardenhire and I'm happy the Tigers realize he's a good baseball man just like Bob Melvin. I've been around baseball a long time and I've seen a lot of managers. Personally, I think Bob Melvin is one of the best in the game if not the best. The players love him, he demands things from the players even though he can be considered a players manager.

But there are a lot of analytics going on in baseball that you have to make changes and managers have to do that. But I'm happy for Gardy. He's a good man and considering what he's been through health wise, to be able to come back, I think it's great for the Tigers.

Q: What is Ron Gardenhire's biggest strength that he offers the Tigers?

A: He's been there and knows what it's like under Tom Kelly. If you look at the Minnesota Twins, they won in 1987. They disbanded than won in 1991. When you're around that type of organization, the important thing is to do that. If you win, you have to pay, and in today's world, it's a lot of money.

If you win and you have that core group of guys, you may keep those guys but you supplement. As guys retire, other guys come in and take over. But you keep a core group of guys around. In todays world, it's very expensive. But I think Gardy can communicate and understand the young players. He's also a veteran manager and knows how to manage the game.

Q: We've talked about Mike Ilitch, what are your overall thoughts about him?

A: When they wore the Mr. I on their sleeves last year, here is a man that knew Victor Martinez was injured, they realized they needed a player and they signed Prince Fielder and paid him $200 Million just because Mike Ilitch said let's do it. You don't see a lot of owners doing that. That's how great Mr. I was.

I heard some stories about the Auto Industry and how he let the cars in center field not have to pay. He was a good man. But still unfortunately he passes away and the transition for the Tigers is what it is right now. The resources maybe aren't there.

When you have those resources, you're not afraid to spend money that means you can sign somebody like Prince Fielder and give him a contract that's unheard of. But also, remember Juan Gonzalez turned down $160 Million which is the best non-sign the Tigers have ever had. We talk about that all the time because the fences supposedly were too deep in left-field. That's a $160 Million they would have been able to do a lot of things they did since then.

It's a good organization, good group of people like Al Kaline, the late Ernie Harwell, and I have so many great memories of the old Tiger Stadium, good ball clubs and you have to transition. You'd like to be a perennial winner and spend lots of money. But in today's world, it's hard to do.

During my Spring Training coverage in 2018, I really enjoyed searching for lots of fresh content with Southeastern Michigan/ Tigers connections.

Covering the Cactus League was a blast and I was amazed that I was arriving at these ballparks at 7:30 AM. You talk about a full day, those are plentiful in Arizona.

As for 2019, there are two ballparks left on the victory tour. There is Scottsdale Stadium, the home of the San Francisco Giants, and the headquarters of the Arizona Fall League which its season begins on October 9th.

There is Sloan Park in Mesa, the home of the Chicago Cubs which is one of the newer facilities.

Any trip to Arizona consists of the LA Angels to visit my friend Tim Mead.

I'll be looking forward to going back to Maryvale, where the Milwaukee Brewers will have a newly renovated stadium.

I do enjoy being on the road looking for fresh local content.

That's the objective with any sport and I'll reiterate on this story, it was great having the privilege spending time with Ray Fosse, a guy that I enjoyed following as a youngster.

I've met a lot of smart baseball people over the years and Fosse ranks up there with the best.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Interview With Tigers Prospect Jake Rogers In My Return To West Palm Beach

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

 I have been in my fair share of Spring Training ballparks, but there was a certain feeling that I have when I come to West Palm Beach, FL.

Back in the early 1980's, I used to cover Florida State League (FSL) games at the now demolished West Palm Beach Municipal Stadium. I also covered an FSL All-Star Game.

The Montreal Expos had a lot of prospects that went on to play in the major leagues.

On Sunday, March 4, 2018, I returned to this city to see the Detroit Tigers visit the Washington Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches.

The 2017 Season was the inaugural season for the ballpark. There were record crowds for the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos), who share the same facility.

On this day, the attendance was 4,481 to see these two teams compete.

Until the ballpark opened, the closest drive to cover a game was about an hour in Jupiter from Deerfield Beach, where the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals play. Roger Dean Stadium is a nice facility.

The New York Mets are about an hour and a half from Deerfield Beach in Port Saint Lucie.

For me, a 30 minute drive was great which allowed me to sleep in my own bed.

Otherwise, to see the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland is about four hours and requires me to get a hotel across the state, though I have commuted the trip from time to time if I get in my crazy driving moods where I like to meditate and do intense mental thinking.

My wheels are always turning.

To cover the Nationals was neat because it was like covering the Montreal Expos all over again. It's unfortunate that the FSL doesn't have a team yet, otherwise I'd be there a lot.

One theme stayed consistent as I returned to West Palm Beach.

I was seeking recommendations from Tigers PR Guy Chad Crunk, who is always a huge help to me about good ideas.

He suggested catching prospect Jake Rogers, who was acquired on August 31, 2017, from the Houston Astros in exchange for Justin Verlander.

To date, Rogers is going to be one of the Tigers top prospects, who will be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

During the 2018 season, he smacked 17 HR and 56 RBI while playing in 99 games with 408 At Bats.

Defensively, Rogers had 857 put outs, 102 assists, caught 50 runners stealing with a 56% caught stealing percentage.

Rogers, 23, is 6-1, 190 pounds and hails from Canyon Texas. He played college baseball for Tulane University.

He's a right-handed hitter that also throws right.

Before the Tigers 6-2 loss to the Nationals in a contest where Nationals superstar outfielder Bryce Harper hit his first HR of the Spring, Rogers and I spoke about his professional career in this exclusive interview.

Q: I understand that you were acquired in the Justin Verlander trade. What were your thoughts when you heard about it?

A: I had a lot of emotions going through. I was with a couple of buddies and I didn't know what to take at first. After it all settled down, I was real excited to come over and really happy to be a part of the new organization, the Detroit Tigers.

Q: To be in a trade involving Verlander, were there any extra feelings involved knowing this is a guy the Houston Astros organization classified as a difference maker who subsequently helped lead them to the first World Series Title in Franchise history?

A: Oh yes, for sure. Obviously, he's a great ballplayer who was a huge part of the Tigers and then the Astros when he went over there. It's an honor to be traded for him and I've been loving every second of it.

Q: Tell me what it was like growing up in the Astros farm system. What did you learn from that experience that you'll be able to bring over to Detroit?

A: I learned a lot from them. They drafted me in 2016. Throughout that 1.5 years I was with them, I tried to accumulate and learn a bunch of different things throughout the organization and kind of bring and accumulate into my game. When I came over here, I learned some of the stuff the Tigers were teaching. I was trying to mix it and make me the best baseball player I can be.

Q: Tell me some of your strengths and weaknesses?

A: Strengths, you know I'm a catcher and take pride in being a great catcher controlling the running game and getting strikes called strikes, balls called strikes, helping the pitcher out and the staff out any way I can possible. I take pride in driving runners in. That's a big part of my game. That's who I try to be.

Weaknesses, I'm trying to improve on everything, everyday any way possible. If Gardy (Manager Ron Gardenhire) says something about my catching that he thinks will be better, and puts it in a professional way, I'm going to try to do it. There's little things in my game that can be made better, and everyone can do better every single day so that's what I'm trying to do.

Q: Tell me what your experiences have been like this Spring Training working with Ron Gardenhire, a guy who has undoubtedly been around baseball for the longest of times?

A: It's been awesome man. Gardy is a great dude and he's a players manager. He's great to be around and I've been trying to soak up as much knowledge any way I can along with his entire staff. Like I said, I'm trying to get better everyday. What, and ever they say, I'm going to try to go out there and do the best I can, then get out there and do it.

Q: No Rogers interview would be complete when I mention a Kenny Rogers reference. I see you smiling a bit. Do you follow his country music at all and how do you like having the same last name?

A: It's good. He's got some great music. I don't listen to him personally, but he has some great songs. I couldn't honestly name one. But I know he has some great music out there and a lot of people like him. So it's kind of cool.

Q: Finally, what about Miguel Cabrera. Have you had much of any opportunity to interact with him?

A: Yes. he's a great guy, man and he's fun to be around. He's a fun guy and loves the game and that's the guys I like to be around.
                      
To this date, the Tigers have won 61 games and have used a lot of players in a rebuilding season.

Do the Tigers have their catcher of the future on their existing roster?

I doubt it but time will tell.

It will be interesting to see how Rogers performs in the Arizona Fall League.

But it was neat to return to West Palm Beach, FL and it felt like old times seeing if there is another
prospect that will be a future major league player.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Media.


These Cats Are Hungry!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

If this was a horse race, the results wouldn't even be close amongst the Florida NFL teams.

On August 24, we traveled up to Tampa and saw the Detroit Lions defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-30 at Raymond James Stadium.


The Buccaneers entered the 2018 season without QB Jameis Winston, who will serve a three game suspension as a result of the personal conduct policy.

There is one word that describes the Miami Dolphins.

Dysfunctional.

During the off-season, Miami parted ways with Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh.

QB Ryan Tannehill has been unable to stay healthy the past couple of years while running back Jay Ajayi was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles last season and played a key role in them winning the Super Bowl.

Let's talk about the Jacksonville Jaguars.

This is a team which finished 3-13 in 2016 and had tarps in certain levels of the stadium to hide empty seats.

Gus Bradley was fired 14 games into the 2016 season and was replaced by Doug Marrone.

In his interim stint, Marrone compiled a 1-1 record and the team just looked much better.

Owner Shad Khan made his next big move hiring franchise icon Tom Coughlin to run the football operations.

Coughlin proceeded to remove the interim tag from Marrone and that move paid big dividends as the team finished 10-6 and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship Game on January 21, 2018.

New England trailed 20-10 when they began their rally.

It started when Tom Brady connected with Danny Amendola for nine-yards and a score with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 20-17.

The Jags were 2:48 away from reaching the Super Bowl losing to the Patriots 24-20 as Brady threw a four-yard TD pass to Amendola for the winning score.

Jacksonville led New England in total yards 374-344 as well as time of possession 35:08-24:52.

During the playoffs, QB Blake Bortles was making smarter decisions using his legs to avoid negative plays and also proved he could win shootouts as well.



I saw the Jaguars win an ugly 10-3 playoff game at home versus the Buffalo Bills.

Jacksonville did the unthinkable by not only beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 in Steel Town during the regular season, they pulled the trick again winning in the Division Playoff Round  45-42 also in Western Pennsylvania.

During the 2017 season, the Jaguars possessed an excellent defense and they were aided by the standout play of running back Leonard Fournette.

When you have a standout cornerback Jalen Ramsey shutting down opposing playmakers, this is an excellent foundation.

On Saturday, August 25, 2018 during Jacksonville's third preseason game, the Jaguars defeated the Atlanta Falcons 17-6.

The defense chased Falcons QB Matt Ryan all over the gridiron and the offense did what it needed to do to record the triumph.

Unfortunately for Jags wide receiver Marquis Lee, he suffered a season ending knee injury as a result of a low hit and was carted off the field.

In three of Jacksonville's four pre-season games, the Jags limited their opponents to 10 points or less and they won all those contests.

In week two, Jacksonville defeated the Minnesota Vikings on the road 14-10, I just mentioned the Atlanta game and in the finale against Tampa Bay on the road, they won 25-10.

What does pre-season mean?

In some cases nothing.
In 2008, the Detroit Lions finished with a 4-0 mark then went on to be the first 0-16 team in NFL History.

The Jaguars finished this pre-season 3-1 and based on what I've seen from this team thus far, this team will be playing like One Angry Cat prowling to get to a place where they nearly tasted "The Super Bowl."

During the off-season they gave Bortles a contract extension since he recorded two playoff wins.

In my opinion after seeing him for three years, all Bortles has to do is simply to a better job protecting the football and not committing the deflating costly turnover.

After the Falcons game, I asked Marrone what it was like to be the hunted instead of the hunter?

"I don't think this team has a different mindset. I think the stuff on the outside may be different," Marrone said. "Our mindset isn't different. I think this team has an edge about them. They're real close. One of the things I'm happy with is we do play complimentary football.

"They understand that we play as one and they have each others backs. They understand it takes a long time in this league before people believe you're a really good football team in my opinion when you're consistently good. Our players understand that. They push each other and we push them as coaches. They push us as coaches. When you have that, you have a chance.

"When you talk individually to a lot of guys on the team, the majority of them have a chip on their shoulder.

"I don't think that's bad at all."

The Jags defense once again proved why it's one of the best in the league in the teams' opener in the Big Apple during it's week one win against the New York Giants on September 9.

Jacksonville defeated the Giants 20-15.

Just like pre-season, the Jags held its opponent to a low point total.

Fournette left the game early due to a minor hamstring issue.

During the week, the team was cautious about his workload not taking any chances of any long term issues.

He will be a game time decision in Jacksonville's home opening rematch against the New England Patriots today at 4:25 pm in Northern Florida on CBS.

I expect Jacksonville's defense to play an important role in deciding the outcome of this contest.

For the record, Patriots QB Tom Brady is 8-0 all-time against the Jags.

The road to the Super Bowl for Jacksonville leads through New England.

This team knows that so Marrone, who I think is one of the most underrated coaches in the NFL, won't need any motivational speeches to get his players psyched up.

As I look at the Jaguars, this team reminds me of the Detroit Pistons during the Bad Boys Era during the mid 1980's and early 1990's.

The Pistons road to winning a pair of championships went through the Boston Celtics taking their lumps in the playoffs.

Jacksonville is dealing with the New England Patriots.

While Marrone is no Chuck Daly, the thing these men have in common is they worked with losing franchises before landing in good spots.

Marrone left a tough situation with the Buffalo Bills while Daly departed an awful situation with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

How can I not mention that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick bolted the Cleveland Browns for a second chance and he's made the most of it winning Super Bowls.

But as you cover a team for a couple years and see the progression during the past two years, it's safe to say that These Cats Are Hungry!

The Jags will get some National Television exposure as well.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Jaguars later this year after having left shoulder surgery which is slated for the first week of November.

But for now, it's safe to say that if their regular season performance mirrors their pre-season performance, then offensive coordinators from around the league will have to buy tons of Tylenol to figure out how to solve this potent defense.

As I mentioned before, as long as Bortles and Fournette are healthy and productive, this team has a punchers chance to be Super Bowl contenders and take that next elusive step.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Former Tigers Skipper Decompressing

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

During our time covering Spring Training in the Cactus League, we had an extremely busy agenda and there were certain games along with people that were on the must do list.

On Monday, March 19, 2018, this was a date that was at the top of the list.

The Los Angeles Angels hosted the Seattle Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

My top priority was seeing a very good friend that I've known for over 20 years.

His name is Tim Mead, the Vice President of Communications.

I'm thankful that throughout the years we've remained in touch through Linkedin and told him that when I returned to Arizona he should have a seat ready for me in the Press Box.

Tim kept his word and I had my seat in the Press Box.

When it comes to the Gold Standard of Public Relations individuals, Tim is one of the nicest and most genuine people on the planet!!

When I go to Arizona to cover Spring Training, this is a stop which is mandatory to make!

Also, Tempe Diablo Stadium has been the Angels home for 26 years and the mountainous scenery is breath taking.

What made this visit even more enjoyable was seeing another familiar face.

His name is Brad Ausmus and he's a Special Assistant to General Manager Billy Eppler.

Ausmus managed the Detroit Tigers from 2014-2017 and led the team to an A.L. Central Division Championship with a 90-72 record.

Overall, Ausmus compiled a 314-332 mark including a 64-98 record during his final campaign that saw Detroit's rebuilding process begin.

During Spring Training, Ausmus was real neat to work with. There were times that I didn't have clubhouse access because every team handles their operation differently.

With Ausmus, he used to hold his pre-game interviews in the dugout and was a pleasure to talk to.

That's what made this day even more enjoyable because it seemed like old times.

What is Ausmus missing right now with the Detroit Tigers?

A squad that currently has a 54-81 mark and the stress of trying to figure out the core of what this team is going to look like in the future.

He's also missing out on Victor Martinez' last season as well as Miguel Cabrera's absence in the line-up because of injuries.

But as we have in the past, we still had time to talk to each other but this time, we had an exclusive one-on-one conversation about the past and the present.

Q: Brad, I have to tell you, it looks a bit different to see you in these new red and white colors uniform than in the past. How is the adjustment for you?

A: It took a few days to get comfortable with after the last four years in Detroit. You get used to the Olde English "D", but like many people in the game of baseball, you wear many uniforms during the course of your career.

Q: I know you have a new challenge here with the LA Angels. What's it been like and tell me what your role is?

A: I'm here on the field in Spring Training quite a bit. I will be on the field some in the minor leagues during the course of the summer. Most of the time will be spent upstairs at "The Big A" during major league Angel games all summer long.

Q: Do you find that taking a year off from managing will give you the opportunity to regroup about what you're going to do? I know that you're relatively young (49) and I've talked to a lot of good friends in the business that are happy to take a breather and welcome the break.

A: I think it gives you a chance to decompress and have you do some things during the course of the summer where you can't do as a manager or as a player. It's a full-time gig, seven months from the middle of February until you hope until the end of October. You don't get to do things like summer vacations when you're involved in baseball. This job allows me to stay involved in the game closely and allows me to do some things at home.

Q: Let's talk about your tenure in Detroit. Can you reflect on that?

A: Overall, I enjoyed my time in Detroit tremendously. I loved the area, the heartbeat of the city, the fans are great fans and they love the Tigers in Detroit and all of Michigan. I wish we could have won a World Series without question. I felt bad that Mr. I (Illitch) didn't get to win a World Series.  That's possibly the biggest regret.

Last year was a tough year especially once we traded off pieces and the Tigers entered rebuilding mode. But quite frankly, I really loved the City of Detroit. As up and down as we had over the course of four seasons, the fans always showed up and they always wanted a winner, quite frankly.

Q: You had great players to work with especially Miguel Cabrera. How did you like managing him?

A: Miggy is easy to manage. He was the smartest player on that team. His baseball IQ is extremely high. He understands not only what he's supposed to be doing on the field, but he knows what everyone else is suppose to be doing.  He's easy. Miggy is the type of guy you wind up and let him go because he's going to do the right thing the vast majority of the time. The back issues hampered him last year. When Miggy's numbers fall back, it's more likely an injury issue.  He has played with injuries and didn't tell you about them. Miggy is a Hall of Fame Player and that I think has some years left in him.

Q: What were your thoughts about Justin Verlander being traded to the Houston Astros?

A: I wasn't happy and I didn't want to lose Justin Verlander, but I understood why the move was being made. Having played in Houston for 10 years, I sat down and talked to Justin after the trade for about 15 minutes about the area and about places he might want to live.

Just the fact understanding that Astros fans and the City of Houston would embrace him. I was there in 1998 when the Astros traded for Randy Johnson, I saw how the city embraced him that I knew Justin would get a similar welcoming.




Q: You talked about the Tigers starting rebuilding last season. How tough of a challenge will it be for them?

A: I think Al (Avila) committed to the rebuilding process and Gardy (Ron Gardenhire) has done this before so he's an excellent man for the job.  It may take some time. There will be some growing pains, but I think it's a smart thing to do and in the long haul hopefully it puts Detroit in a position to win on a consistent basis.

Q: Finally, it's neat to see you every year in Spring Training and in Florida I liked watching you running around the field to get a workout.  How do you like being in the Cactus League compared to the Grapefruit League?

A: I can say this, the Cactus League travel is much easier.  Everything is within 45 minutes. So that's a bonus. I will say this though.  The Tigers have one of the nicest Spring Training Complex's and Stadiums in all of baseball. That's a big plus in Lakeland.

It's inevitable that there will be managerial openings at the end of the year.

Angels Manager Mike Sciosia is signed through the end of the 2018 season and Baltimore Orioles Pilot Buck Showalter could be at the end of his tenure in Maryland.

Ausmus is a bright baseball mind and you can rest assure that he will be quite selective about what type of challenge he'd undertake, and when he's ready to return to the pressure cooker.

Unlike former Arizona Diamondbacks Managers Bob Brenly, Kirk Gibson and former Tigers Skipper Alan Trammell who didn't get second opportunities to run a team, I don't see that happening to Ausmus.  It's not a matter of if he'll get another job, but a matter of when.

As for my return to seeing the Angels, I felt like I hit a grand slam home run spending time with Mead and Ausmus!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbullm@aol.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Interview With Former Dearborn Divine Child High School's Chris Rusin

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

During our visit to the Cactus League in Arizona, there were no shortage of Southeastern Michigan storylines to talk about.

Last month we talked about "The One That Got Away" with Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ  LeMahieu.

The focus of this story also involves another player who plays in Colorado named Chris Rusin.

Rusin is a 31-year old left-handed pitcher who was born in Detroit and stands 6-2 and weighs 191 pounds.

As an amateur, he played for Divine Child High School in Dearborn and led the team to back-to-back state championships in his final two years there, while being named to the All-Star Dream Team in both seasons.

He pitched shutouts in three consecutive Catholic League championship games at Comerica Park from 2003-05.

He would play his college ball at the University of Kentucky and graduated in 2009. He became Kentucky's first, first-team All SEC pitcher since Scott Downs earned the honor in 1997.

He began is career with the Chicago Cubs and was claimed off waivers from the Cubs on September 27, 2014.

While in the Cubs minor league system, Rusin threw a no-hitter for the teams AAA Iowa affiliate on May 7, 2014.

He is signed through the 2018 season and has a career record of 19-27 with a 4.60 ERA and 328 strikeouts.

On August 7, 2016, Rusin gave up Ichiro Suzuki's 3000 hit.

When I was at the Rockies Spring Training facility at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, AZ, I noticed he had a competitiveness that was displayed beyond the baseball diamond.

Rusin is a really good Table Tennis player.

Before the Rockies took the field against the Milwaukee Brewers on March 20, 2018, we had a nice discussion on his road to the major leagues.

Q: Was it ever a dream of yours to play for the Detroit Tigers?

A: It's always a dream that you'd want to play for your hometown team. But it rarely ever works out that way. You always have it in the back of your mind hoping. I just want to play in the stadium (Comerica Park) as the away team. Hopefully, that day will come. I like it here and enjoy it here. But you know every kids dreams of playing in their hometown.

Once you actually get to the major leagues, it just kind of goes away. You just want to travel and play there on whatever team you're on, but it hasn't happened yet. Hopefully, it will come soon.

Q: As a Metro Detroiter, I'm sure you've probably heard of Mickey Lolich, who was instrumental in the Tigers winning
the 1968 World Series Championship. Lolich was a left-handed pitcher. You're a left-hander as well. Do you find it sometimes to be an advantage that you're a left-handed pitcher since there are a lot more right-handed hurlers out there?

A: You know Scott, it's obviously an advantage to be left-handed. I'm not a power guy so that kind of helps with the deception. So I kind of use that to my advantage and it's been helping me get jobs when there are very few left-handers out there on the team. I'm trying to be as consistent as possible and work my craft more and more each year.

Q: It's funny how you say that because I've been covering the game for 39 years. I've seen marginal left-handers like Ray Fontenot and former Tigers Pitching Coach Chuck Hernandez that had outstanding moves to first base. Do you feel you have a pretty good move to first base?

A: Yes. I like to look at the runners body language that you don't want the other team to have an advantage. So, I take pride in controlling the running game, have done a good job over the years since I've been up here. I continue to work at it because you don't want the guy in scoring position especially if you come in late in the game. It's huge to keep them on first base and keep the double play in order. I take pride in that and still continue to try to work on it.

Q: Do you feel that over the years being left-handed is a huge advantage compared to a right-handed hurler?

A: There aren't that many left-handers pitchers in the world and I lucked out. It's something left-handed hitters aren't comfortable seeing because they don't see them all the time. I take pride in trying to get lefty's out and also righty's out. I have a couple pitches that work well against right-handed hitters that don't work well against left-handed hitters. I have other pitches that I throw that left-handers can't handle that right-handers can. So I kind of mix and match. It's one of those left-handed weird deal things. So I just try and go out there and pound the zone.

Q: You talk about pitches. Tell me about some of your better pitches in your artillery?

A: I rely on movement so left-handers with a two-seam gets on pretty quickly. The deception helps as well. A couple of off-speed that keeps them off the two-seam if they're trying to cheat in there. I have a good change-up and I like to use that quite a bit. That's pretty good for me.

Q: So do you view yourself as a power pitcher at all?

A: No, no. I'm definitely not a power pitcher. I probably top out at 92, 93 mph. I just rely on keeping hitters off balance.

Q: I know at one point you were a starting pitcher and you converted to a reliever. A couple of names that come to mind are Hall Of Fame Pitchers John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley. Tell me what the transition has been like for you as I've looked at your numbers which drastically improved in that role.

A: Being a former starter in the role I'm in now, it's made it easier to switch because instead of covering six or seven innings, and trying to save your pitches, or go through everything in one inning, or the first two innings, I can throw everything in the first two innings that I'm in. The one, two or three outings I have, so I don't have to save anything. I can throw all different combinations out there then keep them off balance. It's worked well for me.

Q: Do you like the role?

A: Yes, I like it. I just want to do what the team needs me to help. Wherever I can help out, whatever spot fits me the best, that's where I want to be.

Q: You had a chance to pitch at Comerica Park during High School winning championships. What was it like pitching in that venue?

A: It's a big park (laughing). You throw as many strikes as you can, let them hit it and see how far they can hit it. Chances are, it's not going out of that ballpark, especially in high school. I haven't pitched there in the big leagues so I'm not really sure. But it's obviously a lot bigger than Coors Field. The ball flies out at Coors. It's definitely a pitchers ballpark compared to Coors Field.

Q: How do you like pitching at Coors Field?

A: I like it. I think my pitches fit well there. I have short movements and it's tough for the hitters to pick up with how late it is. You have to worry about really keeping the ball down because obviously the ball flies.

Q: How do you like playing in Colorado?

A: I like it. It's an adjustment with the altitude and breathing with the recovery aspect of the game. I'm used to it and enjoy it.

Q: Let's talk about your incredible high school career. I was looking over your numbers and they were really good. You won championships at Dearborn Divine Child. Can you reflect back on that?

A: Yes, Scott. it was a crazy time. I enjoyed playing in big games. We had a great team and great coach. They just kept relaxed, loose, it was fun to be around the guys. It was always fun being in the championship run every year especially playing in Comerica Park.

Especially, that third time, my first two games were 1-0 wins and I'm wondering what's going to happen. I just went out there, blocked everything out, concentrated and I was able to throw a 1-0 victory. It's kind of a blur pretty much because it happened so quickly. I still have those tapes and look back at them occasionally to refresh my mind. It was a fun time.

Q: Were those games when you were a starter?

A: Yes, a starter. I only had to pitch seven innings for a complete game. It was fun, it was a fun time.

Q: Can you visualize what it would have been like to play at Tiger Stadium?

A: I wish I could (laughing) but I've gone to a couple of games there. I love the stadium. It was a hitters ballpark if you kept it down the line. I would have loved to have played at Tiger Stadium.

Q: Unlike warm climates, how do you stay in baseball shape since you weren't able to play year round in Michigan?

A: They have indoor facilities and at our high school, we worked out in the gym and we played catch in the gymnasium. We had a work out place upstairs, so I pretty much did all the work indoors. When it wasn't cold or didn't snow, we did all our work outside.

Q: Finally, do you still keep tabs on the Detroit Tigers?

A: No, not as much as I did before I played in the minors or working my way up to the big leagues. I don't pay as much attention anymore. It's just another team. We're (Colorado Rockies) trying to beat all those other teams out.

As it stands at the moment, Colorado has a record of 72-60 and are 1.5 games out of the final wild card spot trailing the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.

The Rockies are only 1/2 game out in the NL West behind division leading the Arizona Diamondbacks.

There is no question he'll be needed during the September stretch run.

With his impending free agency, it will also be interesting to see where Rusin is employed in 2019. We'll find out in due time, but it was great talking to another hometown product that made his way to the big leagues.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbullm@aol.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Lions vs Lightning

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
TAMPA, FL

During my 36 years of covering professional football, I've witnessed a lot of different things.

I've seen ideal conditions playing in Dome Stadiums, Snowstorms, Rainstorms which make the footing difficult due to the mud, windy weather which gave kickers migraine headaches resulting in missed field goals.

I've seen blistering cold weather, nice weather along with extremely hot and humid conditions, in addition to fields that felt like ice.

Unfortunately, I've watched careers end on old artificial turf which was a player hitting the concrete.

But on Friday, August 24, 2018, a Nationally Televised contest on CBS between the Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium was delayed until 9 pm due to rain and lightning.

I joked around with the Lions PR Staff that the area's reputation for being the Lightning Capital of  North America, is the reason why the NHL has a team called the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Of the pre-season games, it's no secret that the third game is the most important, as it's the dress rehearsal for the regulars to get as many reps as possible.

Despite these conditions, there is no way this game was going to be cancelled or postponed.

I couldn't see the Lions spending more money on travel expenses, the Bucs weren't giving back refunds and the NFL wasn't going to give CBS any rebates due to lost revenues.

Besides, with this being on a Friday Night, fewer people would miss work and there was no school for the kids.

Moreover, lets not lose sight of the fact that these teams needed the work so the only questions were how bad the field conditions would factor into the regulars playing time, in addition to the injury risks.

The last time I saw Lions running back LeGarrette Blount play in person was in 2010 when he played against Detroit on December 19, 2010.

Detroit defeated Tampa Bay 23-20 in OT to snap their record 26-game road losing streak.

Blount looked good in this game by amassing 15 carries for 110 yards with a 7.3 average and one touchdown. He would gain 1007 yards and six touchdowns during the campaign.

The Lions entered this game 0-2 under new coach Matt Patricia, who definitely needs to search for answers to get his squad ready for the season opener vs the New York Jets on Monday, September 10, 2018 at Ford Field.

How would the Lions fare on this wet night on CBS which used to televise these squads regularly as they were NFC Central Division rivals when the network used to carry the NFC Package?

Lions QB Matt Stafford came away from the game without sustaining an injury. He completed nine of 18 passes for 113 yards, with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked three times.

I asked Stafford what it was like dealing with the weather conditions and how it was playing on the moist turf.

"It wasn't too big of an issue. Luckily it kind of passed over us pretty quick," Stafford said. "We were worried for a little bit that it might be a super long one. We were trying to find out how quickly we could get out there, but once we got out there really the weather was not an issue. We were able to pretty much play the game as normally as we would.

"As far as the turf, it felt okay. I think that field drains really well, I'm assuming that they've got a great drainage system considering they play in Florida."
.
Blount also left the game without any injuries. Against his old team, he rushed for 45 yards on 11 carries.

One play that stood out in the contest was kicker Matt Prater missed a 62-yard field goal. It was nine yards deep in the end zone which was a kick-six by Adam Humphries for what turned out to be a 109 yards which actually seemed longer considering the route crossing around the field.

This special teams play gave Tampa Bay a 27-6 lead. That's as high as this lead would get for Tampa Bay.

After the game, Patricia wasn't that bothered by this play.

"Obviously, it's going to be a situational game-by-game, depending on where we are and things like that, but it's a great learning point," Patricia said. It's a great situational point. It wasn't a very good play; it was pretty horrific, to be honest with you.

"There's a time and point where the play might have to come up and execute it properly, whether it's the kick or the cover or any part of it. To get an opportunity to get to do that during the pre-season, you take those chances and try to teach off of it. It's about teaching and improving."

On a positive note for the Lions, they didn't quit and realized the game was 60 minutes because they needed every bit of this time to make an improbable run which gave Detroit a 33-30 win.

In this game, Detroit amassed 122 rushing yards and totaled 337 yards of total offense.

Detroit scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and recorded a 21-point comeback.

While lightning began the night from a weather standpoint, there was more lightning that struck the Buccaneers.

The last time the Lions employed a player with the initials B.P., this player was one of the most dependable wide receivers during the 1990's named Brett Perriman.

Perriman stood 5-9, 180 pounds and played collegiately for the Miami Hurricanes.

Perriman was a key contributor on Detroit teams that made the playoffs in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1995.

Perriman currently ranks third on Detroit's all-time list with 428 receptions for 5244 yards.

He finished his career with 525 receptions, 6589 yards, and 30 touchdowns.

Back in 1991, Perriman was on the last Lions squad to win a playoff game which also featured Barry Sanders, and Herman Moore.

During the off-season, the Lions appear to have found a hidden gem as an undrafted free agent from the State of Florida.

But this kid played for the Florida Gators and is from my neck of the woods, playing high school football at Deerfield Beach High School.

He's 22-years old and is 5-8, 181 pounds, quite similar in physique to Perriman.

Against Tampa Bay, Brandon Powell caught all six passes thrown his way for 45 yards.

But his performance on special teams stood out as he had three punt returns for 101 yards, including an 80-yard TD with 4:53 remaining in the game which cut Tampa Bay's lead to 30-26 and gave Detroit a chance for a win.

The Lions would win the contest as QB Jake Rudock hit Marcus Lucas for a five-yard touchdown that gave Detroit a 33-30 lead with 30 seconds left.

But the story was Powell, who came back to his home state looking to solidify his spot on the 53-man roster on Saturday.



He was asked what occurred on the touchdown.

"Everybody on the punt return team-everybody was on their blocks, so I just had the easy part," Powell said. I just found the lane to run through. That's all I did. The other 10 guys were the ones that made it happen because they were the ones blocking for me."

Powell added, "Everyone just needed to go out there and do their jobs on that one play, that's all it was. The punt return team, everybody was out there trying to make the play. Everybody blocking, me trying to catch the ball and making something happen and we made a play."

Powell was also asked what it felt like when he knew he was going to score on the punt return?

"I just wanted to make sure I got in the end zone first," Powell said. "Then once I got in the end zone, it was like man, I really just made a punt return for a touchdown, my first one in the NFL. I was happy, but I made sure I congratulated the 10 guys that were blocking for me."

As I left the Lions locker room, I bumped into Lions legend Lomas Brown, who is a Florida Gator alumnus and played for Detroit on those playoff teams in the 1990's.

He's the new voice on Detroit's radio broadcast team with FOX's Dan Miller. He was gleaming that fellow alumnus had a big night and told me he's cheering quite hard for Powell to make the final roster, as he gave me the Gator Chomp with a smile as wide as Florida to Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the Lions did get Patricia his first win as Detroit improved to 1-2 during the pre-season in a game that lasted 2:57. The contest lasted close to 12 Midnight.

Like every coach in the pre-season which is experiencing what plays will work and searching for players that will contribute, it will be interesting to see what the ESPN National Audience will see on Monday Night Football when they face the New York Jets on September 10 at Ford Field with rookie QB Sam Darnold taking snaps for the opponent.

I'm also curious whether Patricia can surpass the 9-7 mark for a team that he inherited by former Coach Jim Caldwell.

But on this night, the Lions lightning theme worked out well as they overcame the elements and Powell jolted Tampa Bay.

Going into the pre-season home finale against the Cleveland Browns, Powell leads the NFL with 15 receptions.

Like in 2008, the Lions won an exciting game by three points and the only difference was each team scored 10 points more, in addition to the fact there would be no record long road losing steaks to deal with.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbullm@aol.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The One That Got Away "DJ LeMahieu" Colorado Rockies

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

Everybody knows that The Motor City is known for producing automobiles.

But every now and then Southeastern Michigan produces some good ballplayers.

Former Milwaukee Brewers Catcher Ted Simmons led his team to a World Series appearance in 1982, only to come up short against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Simmons played high school baseball for the The Southfield Blue Jays.

Current Detroit Tigers TV Analyst Kirk Gibson played college football and baseball for the Michigan State Spartans choosing to play professionally on the diamond.

During his MLB career, Gibson slammed two memorable post-season home runs leading the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers to respective World Series Titles in 1984 and 1988. These were the last championships for both teams.

Since this is the non-waiver trade deadline day, there is no way that I can forget about Warren, MI., native John Smoltz, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 22nd round of the 1985 draft, 574th selection overall.

In 1987, the 20-year old prospect was traded to the Atlanta Braves for 36-year old veteran Doyle Alexander. The Tigers won the AL East with Alexander on the hill, but by 1989, the hurler was out of baseball.

Meanwhile, Smoltz would go on to have a Hall of Fame career as he was 213-155 as a starter, then converted to a reliever and amassed 154 saves. He won a World Series for the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and was an eight-time All-Star.

Atlanta retired Smoltz's No.29.

When we covered Spring Training in Arizona in March, the first game on the agenda featured the Colorado Rockies against the Milwaukee Brewers at Phoenix's Maryvale Stadium on March 10.

I walked over to the Rockies Public Relations area to get a media guide and Cory Little politely handed me one. Little asked for my affiliation then mentioned to me that there would be two players who were worth writing about.

One was second baseman LeMahieu and the other is pitcher Chris Rusin.

Little credentialed us for the San Francisco Giants game on March 18 and March 20 against the Milwaukee Brewers, enabling me to interview both players.

Rusin's story will be written after this one, but both players are a big part of the Rockies post-season drive.

In 2017, LeMahieu hit .310 in 155 games, 609 at bats with 28 doubles, eight home runs, 64 RBI, 189 hits and 90 strikeouts.

LeMahieu was a shortstop and pitcher at Birmingham Brother Rice High School.

After his senior year at Brother Rice, he was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 2007 MLB Draft in the 41st round.

He didn't sign with the Tigers so that he could attend college and play for the LSU Tigers.

During his time with LSU, he participated in the 2008 and 2009 College World Series.

In 2009, he led LSU to the NCAA Championship and was named to the 2009 College World Series All-Tournament Team.

In his senior year in high school as a lead-off hitter, He hit .574, with eight homers, 39 stolen bases, 70 runs, 32 RBI, 39 stolen bases, 16 doubles, seven triples , 92 at bats and only two strikeouts. This slash line was off the charts.

His career average in high school was .459 with 201 hits.

During his sophomore season with LSU, LeMahieu started 72 of 73 games. He led the team in batting average .350 and hits with 96.

He had a 25-game hitting streak spanning the last 16 games of 2008 and the first nine contests in 2009.

LeMahieu was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the 2009, First-Year Player Draft.

The 6-4, 220 pound 29-year-old native of Visalia, CA changed organizations again as Colorado acquired him from the Cubs with outfielder Tyler Colvin in exchange for infielder Ian Stewart and right-hander Casey Weathers, December 8, 2011.

Going into the 2018 season, LeMahieu had impressive career numbers with a .302 average in 827 games, 2912 at bats, 411 runs, 879 hits, 131 doubles, 34 home runs, 287 RBI, 69 stolen bases and 495 strikeouts, 241 walks and 13 HBP's.

LeMahieu is a two time All-Star in 2015 and 2017. He was the starting second baseman in the 2015 game and didn't play in 2017 due to a groin injury.

In 2016, he won the National League batting title with a .348 average (192-552), the highest average in the Major Leagues and the highest average in the National League since Hall of Famer Chipper Jones in 2008 (.364).

He became the eighth player in Rockies history (10th time) to win the NL batting title.

LeMahieu is also a good defensive player as he's won two Gold Glove Awards in 2014 and 2017. He won the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and 2017.

You talk about a stud, the former two-time winner of the Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year and Bloomfield Hills resident is one.

As things stand now, LeMahieu will be a free agent at the end of the season.

He's played in 72 games, has 302 at bats, eight homers, 34 RBI and a .278 average.

Meanwhile, the Rockies own a 57-48 record and are one game back in the NL West behind the LA Dodgers. Colorado is just a half game out in the Wild Card race as well.

To say that he's one Metro Detroit prospect that got away is mildly understating the obvious.

Nevertheless, LeMahieu  and I had an excellent conversation about his career.

Q: What have things been like in your journey in MLB thus far?

A: I'm very blessed to be where I'm at. I've put in a lot of hard work. I've been through a lot of adversity. There continues to be adversity and I'm just trying to get better everyday.

Q: I know you were initially drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 41st round. How did it feel being picked by the Detroit Tigers?

A: Obviously, it really wasn't that cool. They kind of drafted me and then had no intention of talking to me about signing me, so it really wasn't that cool at all.

Q: What was it like playing for the LSU Tigers?

A: It was really cool and won a National Championship and got to Omaha (Nebraska) twice. It was an amazing atmosphere playing in front of 10,000 every night. The SEC is great and I couldn't have had a better experience down there.

Q: As I was looking at your biography at Brother Rice High School, I found it astonishing looking at your statistics as a lead-off hitter. How could you be that successful in that spot in the batting order?

A: I had great coaches at Brother Rice. From a freshman on, they wanted their best hitters at the top of the order. It wasn't lets get a couple speed guys at the top. We really had a good line-up so I was just trying to get on base, have at bats and let the rest of our line-up do their thing.

In high school too, they don't care as much about numbers as much as they do now. I was just trying to prove that I was one of the better players in the state, worth the hype, and the best player I could be. Then, you look back and the numbers were pretty good.


Q: I don't want to go back on something that wasn't cool, but don't you think the Detroit Tigers probably disrespected you a little bit based on the way things turned out particularly since they're in a rebuilding process? Plus, they've also had issues at the top of the batting order.

A: I don't look at it that way. They're a great franchise and have been great a lot of years. I saw them when they were one of the worst teams in the league to being one of the best in the league. It was a lot of fun to watch that growth.

Now they're going on some rebuilding but I got no doubt that they'll be back on top. When the Tigers are good, it's a fun town to be in that's for sure.

Q: Did you ever have a dream to play for the Detroit Tigers?

A: Not really. I kind of grew up all over so I went to a ton of Tigers games and loved watching the Tigers. It's not like I grew up like I can't wait to be a Detroit Tiger or anything like that. I really enjoy watching the Tigers and watching there players.

Q: Let's talk about your career with the Colorado Rockies. You play in the Rocky Mountains, the altitude is high, what's it like to be playing in that part of the country?

A: It's a great city, great town, they love the Rockies, great attendance and even when we weren't that good three or four years ago, people showed up at the park everyday. Now that we have some legitimate talent, and a really good team, it's really a fun team to be a part of.

Q: What's it like to play in that high altitude on a regular basis? I know that balls pop out of there a lot and it's a hitters ballpark. Is that an ideally suited situation for you?

A: There is no doubt that it's a really good place to hit, a good place to play and it is what it is. If it were a pitchers park, hopefully, I would like it as much. I don't look at the park as an advantage. I look at it as just something we deal with.

It sucks when you watch the pitchers and they give up cheap hits here and there. But they don't make excuses for Coors Field. As hitters, we don't make excuses  when we're on the road or at Coors or anything like that either.

Q: I don't see many pitchers duels in that ballpark. Do you since you have a lot of high scoring games out there?

A: It's a hitters ballpark, there is no doubt, but both teams have to play in it and whatever the numbers are, we need to win games there.

Q: Describe to me what the strength of your game?



A: I play good defense, have good at bats, tough outs and try to get better everyday. I hit to contact, I don't like striking out at all, I just grind and try to put the ball in play.

During LeMahieu's lifetime, he's lived in California, Las Vegas, Madison, WI and in the Metro Detroit area.

What impressed me the most about DJ was his even-keeled attitude and his Blue Collar work ethic.

With the Detroit Tigers out of the playoff hunt, there is no way that anybody cannot root for a local kid and "The One That Got Away."

Scott Morganroth is a member of Detroit Sports Media and you can reach me on this website.

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