Facing Tigers thrill for Kaline, Florida Southern

Grandson of Hall of Famer a coach for school, which opened Detroit's spring with exhibition

February 29th, 2016
Florida Southern coach Colin Kaline talks with Tigers baseball video operations assistant August Sandri during BP on Monday. (MLB.com)

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Colin Kaline carries the last name of Tigers royalty as the grandson of Hall of Famer Al Kaline, and he played in the farm system. Yet he'll never forget the times he played against them as an infielder for Florida Southern College.

Now a hitting and infield coach at the NCAA Division II school, he told his players the same thing as they readied for Monday's exhibition against Detroit at Joker Marchant Stadium, which the Tigers won, 7-2.

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"Oh, you remember everything," he said. "It's one of the coolest things you get to experience. And all these guys are so good about it, talking with the guys, engaging the guys. It's something you remember the rest of your life.

"Not too many college players can say they played on the same field with guys like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez."

Brady Arenson can top that. The Florida Southern reliever can tell his kids that he struck out Justin Upton in his first at-bat in a Tigers uniform.

"That was awesome," the junior left-hander said.

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For years, the game has been the unofficial opener to the Tigers' Spring Training schedule. While Detroit usually pitches youngsters and prospects in the game, it fields its regular lineup for one at-bat, giving college players that thrill.

Arenson missed last year's game because he started a game a few days earlier. His shift to the bullpen this spring put him in line for the assignment, but he didn't learn about it until Sunday night.

Teammates told him to look at video of the hitters to get an idea of what to expect.

"The first swing I see is Justin Upton hitting a home run," he said. "So as soon as he walked up, I kind of got the vision of him hitting a home run. I'm like, 'Oh boy, I can't let that happen.'"

With Ian Kinsler on base, Arenson aimed fastballs toward the outside corner. Upton took the first for a strike and swung through the second before eventually fanning on another.

"I think he was sitting on a slider or a changeup," Arenson said of the strikeout pitch, "and I threw him a fastball."

Arenson walked Cabrera but retired Martinez. He nearly had a scoreless outing, but a two-out walk to J.D. Martinez came back to haunt him when Nick Castellanos' hard-hit liner eluded third baseman Mitch Reeves' grasp for an RBI infield single.

"They have a formidable lineup, no matter who you are as a pitcher," Arenson said. "I'm a White Sox fan, and Chris Sale might have trouble with that lineup. But it was awesome."

For the younger Kaline, the game was a chance to catch up. Now in his third year coaching, he played in the Florida Instructional League with Castellanos, and played Class A ball with Tyler Collins, Jeff Ferrell and Steven Moya.

"You get drafted and you take the long bus rides overnight with them," Kaline said. "To see them get to make it to the big leagues, it's really cool."

He knew his future was in coaching, and he got his chance at his alma mater. He's hoping to get a chance as a head coach someday, but he loves what he's doing.

"My coaches were very influential for me," Kaline said. "You get some horror stories from people saying their coaches were awful and crazy and ruined the game for some kids, so I always wanted to be a guy that was an ambassador for the game for some younger players, because those are the people I remember."