Darrett Pullins had his Opening Day Pick ’Em presented by loanDepot selections cued up and ready to go, but some technical difficulties caused him to have to start over. After rethinking some of his picks on the second attempt, the 58-year-old ended up going 13-for-13 and beating out hundreds of thousands of participants to win the $200,000 grand prize.
“I have to actually thank my computer for that because I had actually picked some random teams and I went to submit and somehow the page disappeared,” said Pullins, an adjunct humanities professor and freelance photographer who lives in Rochester, Mich. “And I had to remember all over again what I had picked. And I know I changed two teams. So there really wasn’t any strategy outside of random luck, or if you want to call it divine intervention, either way. I wish I could lie and tell you, ‘Oh I had a great strategy, I did this, I did that.’ But that would be just the biggest falsehood.
“It’s an honor, to be honest with you. It’s an honor to be that lucky.”
Two others also perfectly predicted who would win the 13 Opening Day matchups, but the tiebreaker question, which asked participants to predict how many homers would be hit across MLB on Opening Day, went to Pullins. He came within seven homers of the exact number.
One of the games Pullins recalls changing was the Yankees-Blue Jays matchup. Pullins, a Bronx native, initially picked the Yankees.
“Being a born and raised New Yorker ... I wanted to make sure I was loyal,” Pullins said. “But I thought, ‘I don’t know, maybe I should rethink this one.’”
The switch worked out, as the Blue Jays went on to win a 3-2 nail-biter, scoring the decisive run in the top of the 10th inning.
Picking against the Yankees was a tough decision for Pullins, who has lived in the metro Detroit area since 1985 but still considers the Bronx Bombers his favorite team. His enduring Yankees fandom isn’t surprising when you consider that the team was pretty much one of his neighbors when he was younger.
“I grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium,” Pullins said. “One place I lived I could look out the window and see the stadium, when the lights were on and when it was going through the renovations back in the ‘70s. And then when I moved to another spot on the Concourse, literally I could go to the top of where I lived and I could see [Yankee] Stadium. And from my window, which was on the 10th floor, I could actually see Shea Stadium. So baseball was always within visual range.”
How close did Pullins live to Yankee Stadium in those days? He remembers watching Game 6 of the 1977 World Series -- Reggie Jackson’s famous three-homer game -- on television and hearing the roar of the crowd for each of Mr. October’s blasts before they aired on TV moments later.
Pullins says he roots for the hometown Tigers, too, so long as they aren’t playing the Yanks.
“I’m always going to be a Yankee fan,” he said. “I have Detroit memorabilia because I know folks when they see Yankees stuff here they tend to go crazy. Honestly, I’m a Tigers fan until the Yankees come to town. Then, sorry, that’s not happening.”
Drawing from his background in education, Pullins is already thinking about how he can help others with his winnings.
“One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is partner up with individuals or big companies and create something where people could have experiences,” he said. “Maybe part of whatever I get could be directed towards that, where money is put forth toward some kind of a foundation where people could get educational experiences. Not just going to a ballpark, but perhaps taking bus trips to different cities. And along with maybe seeing a ballgame, also going to some of the cultural places in each of these cities. Because I think there’s a lot of folks who are just in their own kind of world and there’s a bigger world and they should be exposed to it.”