Well Tigers fans, it’s happened: Brandon Inge is officially off of the Detroit Tigers. Depending on how you view Inge, this could either mean that the witch has left the town or that your beloved Tiger is leaving you with a broken heart.
One thing, however, is for sure; Detroit is saying goodbye to a great man.
Sure, he wasn’t the greatest baseball player in the world, and he showed that by barely hitting his way into a triple digit average. The dismal hitting won’t be missed by the Tigers or any of the fans, but what will be missed it the true person Inge really was.
Ever since he started off his career in Detroit in 2001, Inge has always been the best team player an organization could ask for. During his tenure he played catcher, third base, a bit of outfield and even attempted second base. The guy has been in more positions than a yoga instructor, and not once did he publicly complain about it.
And for a guy who never complained, it’s ironic how many Tigers supporters would do just the opposite and complain about Inge.
To be honest, all of that was justified; he looked like he was trying to hit marbles with an extension cord for the last couple of years. He was showered with boos at Opening Day and heard the jeers after every at-bat that resulted in an out. But do you know what? He still loved and respected every fan, and he was the first man to tell the Detroit Free Press that after he was let go.
“I know that for every one person that may boo, there are another 10 that are applauding,” Inge said. “There’s no reason to badmouth any of them. I’d rather be the bigger person and thank the people who are cheering than lump people into the negative category when that’s not necessarily the case.”
So was he hearing the boos? Of course, they were overbearing sometimes, but he would always go back to the lab to try to turn those haters back into believers. Dave Dombrowski called him “a soldier”, Ramon Santiago said “he always worked hard”, and Jim Leyland (predictably) was misty eyed during the meeting that determined Inge’s fate.
He was always trying to improve his game for the sake of his fans, but when he wasn’t coming through for the Tigers he was always counted on to come through for Detroit.
Inge has given over $100,000 of his hard-earned money back to Mott’s Children’s Hospital and was a frequent visitor to kids who desperately needed something to smile about. He was always respectful to the fans, and I have personally never heard of anyone having a bad run-in with him.
Even when it was all set and done and Dombrowski broke the news to him, he still acted with the utmost professionalism. Dombrowski characterized Inge during the goodbye as “thankful”, and said that Inge wished the Tigers “the best of luck.” That is just about as classy as a farewell as you can have, and we shouldn’t have expected anything less from a man that carries that much character.
But unfortunately character can only go so far and your hardest work just doesn’t cut it sometimes. Young players may not see themselves modeling their batting stance after him, but every young athlete should look up to him as a role model. In a world where our best athletes are big-headed and take after the “me first” way of life, it was always reassuring to see a man of an athlete that knows how to act.
On behalf of Tigers fans I think it is safe to say that we thank you, Mr. Inge, for your hard work and dedication to Detroit. You will be missed by many, and we couldn’t be any more proud that you say that your “heart will always be in Detroit 100 percent forever.”