Baseball fans everywhere can collectively give a sigh of relief because the best sport on the planet is officially back this month.
For fans, the three months where baseball is not played is the worst season of the year. On February 18, the Detroit Tigers pitchers and catchers report for duty. And just a few days later, on February 22, the entire team shows up to start the road to the playoffs.
Let the Games Begin
The best part of the whole month is the last day, February 29. This is where the Tigers play their annual game against the Florida Southern Moccasins. These two teams have been facing off for the Tigers first game of the season for over 30 years and the last time the Tigers lost was 1986. It is doubtful that the Mocs will win this year even if the Tigers play their bench players for the majority of the game (which they will).
There are plenty of tickets available for the exhibition game in Lakeland, Florida. It starts at 1:05. Along with watching the starters at least for an inning, fans will get the extra special treat of seeing a pair of Kalines at the field. Al Kaline has his own reserved front row parking spot in Lakeland and his grandson, Colin Kaline, is an assistant coach with the Mocs. The younger Kaline was once a part of the Detroit Tigers minor league system and he was a part of the rookie coaching staff before joining Florida Southern.
J.D. Gets His Day
February is also time to see what happens with J.D. Martinez and arbitration. Hearings run from the 1st of February until the 21st. It appears that Martinez will be the first player to force a hearing since 2002 when Dombrowski took over general managerial duties. Even though both sides have to prove that their salary numbers are the best, Martinez and the Tigers will both turn out to be winners. If the Tigers get their number, Martinez will make $6 million. If his number wins, he will make $8 million. Both are respectable salary figures for any professional athlete. He could even end up with a long-term deal by the time the hearings are completed. No matter what happens, he will be a part of the 2016 team, he will get a raise, and fans will continue to watch #28 hit home runs.
Detroit Tigers Pitchers Show Their Stuff
Once the pitchers report, Tigers fans will get to see what is really happening with the rotation. Will Justin Verlander be the spring Verlander from 2015 or will he be the late summer JV? Will Anibal Sanchez throw unhittable strikes or will he lead the league in giving up home runs off of first pitches? What will Mike Pelfrey have to offer? Will Daniel Norris have his beard? What will Bruce Rondon bring? All of the speculation will finally be put to rest – at least until the first “real” game of the season.
When to Watch and Listen
On February 23, the first full squad workout begins. On March 1st, fans in frigid Michigan can listen to the palm trees sway in the breeze as Dan Dickerson and Jim Price call the game against the Pittburgh Pirates. The following day fans can watch the palm trees as Mario Impemba and Rod Allen (or Kirk Gibson) call it on Fox Sports Detroit.
T. G. I. F(ebruary)