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Category: Sports Published on Monday, 08 October 2012 16:59 Written by Leland Stein, III
TIGERS CELEBRATE home victory. – Dan Graschuck photo
By Leland Stein III
As the Detroit Tigers try to negotiate the Oakland A’s and looks to either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles in a possible American League Championship Series (ALCS) in the 2012 Playoffs they have presented themselves as more than just a sports team. They are a galvanizing collective that has set the entire Metropolitan Area, the State of Michigan and even Canada on fire.
Talking to fans at Comerica Park, I encountered fans from as far away as the Upper Peninsula, Grand Rapids and Jackson, just to mention a few.
Yeah, sports are just entertainment; however, its civil and communal effects are essential to an area like Detroit that is still trying to recover from the economic downturn that engulfed the entire United States in 2007-08.
Anything that can make the resident collective feel better, move – at least for the now – past their all too real problems is a positive.
Make no mistake about it the Detroit Tigers have been a positive for Detroit and its surrounding areas. Since Opening Day when Justin Verlander followed up a historic season that saw him take home both the Cy Young and MVP honors, after posting an absolutely fantastic 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 total strikeouts, and, after the Tigers beat Boston 3-2, the Detroit fans have been absolutely giddy about this team.
The fact that the Tigers lost in six games to the Texas Rangers in the AL pennant series in 2011 elevated the expectations in the 2012 season and the hoped for glory never did stop as the Tigers teased all with they play.
The 2012 Tigers stayed in the pennant hunt all season, but took all it fans on a roller coaster ride that was joyful and painful. Win big series over contending teams and then lose to the bottom feeder teams.
No matter, for third time in franchise history and third time under Jim Leyland, the Tigers surpassed the three million tickets sold mark.
"It's unbelievable," Leyland said.
This season, the Tigers have seen 41 percent of games sold out at Comerica Park (33 of 81 games). It started on April 5, when on Opening Day against the Red Sox, Detroit drew 45,027 fans -- the second-largest crowd in Opening Day history and largest at Comerica Park.
Since then, the fans have continued piling in. On Thursday, in the regular-season home finale, the Tigers hit three million fans for the first time since 2008, when a record 3,202,645 tickets were sold. It also happened in 2007, the year after Detroit went to the World Series.
Leyland said he certainly wasn't taking any credit for it, deferring to owner Mike Ilitch's willingness to bring in stars like Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. But he took pride in it happening under his watch.
"I'm proud of that. It's nice to be part of that," he said. "This has been some of the best times in Tigers' history it seems to me. Spirit-wise, fan-wise, emotion, so at least I've been here during that time. That's pretty good.
"Three million, when I thought about three million to be honest with you ... I thought of the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Yankees. To be honest with you, I didn't think of Detroit. Now that it's happened three times, it's pretty impressive. These people are unbelievable."
With the support of one of the best fan’s base in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Tigers if they can continue their MLB Playoff run will not only be special for the franchise; but, more importantly it will be therapeutic for its fan base.
These Tigers have had to scratch and claw for everything they've gotten. They didn't clear .500 for good until the 85th game of the season and didn't take over first place until the 155th.
But isn’t that the story of Detroit? A city that in recent years has had to claw for everything it has gotten. The Tigers never gave in as they kept plugging along, keeping the White Sox in the front view mirror, just as Detroit has had to do.
With only nine wins from being World Series champions the 2012 Tigers has given the Metro Area an uplift that is in measurable. No matter is they go all the way or not.
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