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Fans warm up to familiar faces at TigerFest

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The temperatures downtown felt more like Opening Day than TigerFest as they crept into the 50s on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

"I think this is my first TigerFest where there wasn't snow on the ground," utility man Andrew Romine said.

DETROIT -- The temperatures downtown felt more like Opening Day than TigerFest as they crept into the 50s on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

"I think this is my first TigerFest where there wasn't snow on the ground," utility man Andrew Romine said.

The mood among fans who made their way to Comerica Park seemed to reflect the weather. They had no way to know it would be this warm when they purchased all the available tickets in December, when long-term forecasts predicted a snowy, chilly winter around Michigan. Waking up to temperatures well above freezing on Saturday, they lined up early, stretching all the way to Woodward Avenue, and stayed a while.

"One, it's impressive that they come out in droves like they do," manager Brad Ausmus said. "This year, discount it because it's a little warmer, but I've seen the same number of people show up when it's 20 degrees out or 15 degrees out. And that's impressive."

Tigers fans didn't have many new faces to welcome, though Mikie Mahtook made an appearance three days after being acquired in a trade from the Rays. But amidst an offseason where many stars seemed to be in trade rumors, the return of familiar faces was surely appreciated by fans and players alike.

"I was talking to a few guys. It's just a completely different feeling than last year," left-hander Matt Boyd said. "We know each other. We grew together last year. It's pretty rare that we get to come back with the same squad that we had last year for the most part, outside of [Cameron Maybin]. It's really special, and we're ready to get out there and toe it up and start working together for that ultimate goal."

Video: Collins talks about his goals, is ready for Spring

Instead of simply introducing themselves to Detroit, players were showing off some of their personalities. Nick Castellanos, still young but entering his fourth season with the Tigers, beat out teammate Tyler Collins in a lip-sync contest on a stage with an enthusiastic performance of Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way." Justin Wilson, back with the club for a second year after offseason trade rumors, enjoyed the Pie Face Game set up in the Social Media Clubhouse, while fellow reliever Mark Lowe took on kids in video games.

Video: Castellanos discusses career growth with Tigers

"I think the players, talking to them, they were enjoying themselves," general manager Al Avila said in his seminar session on stage. "They were really getting involved in the community [on the Winter Caravan the previous two days]. It's really been a great few days."

Video: Al Avila discusses Tigers' competition in center

Daniel Norris, already among the more popular young Tigers with little more than a season in the organization, fielded more than a few questions about his long winter beard, and nearly as many about his green fedora.

"Some people want me to have [the beard]," Norris said. "Some people think it's terrible. Everybody just thinks I'm goofy, I don't know."

Even Ausmus had a little fun when a fan brought up draping his hoodie over home plate following an ejection last season, noting that hitting coach Lloyd McClendon took first base off the field during his managerial tenure in Pittsburgh.

"Tell you what," Ausmus said. "I'll do it again if you pay my fine."

All in all, though, being able to look back at last year and see many faces returned was a boon for him.

"I think they've all kind of exhaled, the names that were mentioned," Ausmus said. "So hey, we've got this team back together. Last year, we had some injuries. We've got a shot this year."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers