Gardy values Jackie Robinson Day convo

August 28th, 2020

DETROIT -- Friday marked Major League Baseball’s celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, which was moved when the coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of the season. The timing turned out to be fitting.

A day after Tigers players and coaches had an emotional clubhouse conversation on race and equality in society before deciding not to play Thursday night, the topic was still on manager Ron Gardenhire’s mind as he readied for Friday’s doubleheader.

“With Jackie Robinson Day today, that’s always a special day,” Gardenhire said, “and it goes kind of hand in hand with what we’re talking about right now and what we talked about yesterday. I’ve always enjoyed this day, putting on 42, and you hear the stories of what he went through. You can only imagine how that would’ve been, watching those movies of him and just seeing what a special person [he was] and how he handled everything he went through to build a path for other Black players and other people of color to be able to play Major League Baseball. He set the tone, and that’s really important to this country and to baseball in general, what Jackie went through to give other players a chance.”

Gardenhire, who turns 63 in October, said his views have been impacted from talking with his players about the issues and challenges they experience every day, even before this week’s discussions. Hearing his players share their experiences Thursday, Gardenhire said, created an awareness.

“It was heartfelt,” Gardenhire said. “A lot of times we fail to have these conversations. You go about your business. We’re in Major League Baseball, we’re having a blast. But it was conversations about stepping out your door and getting in your car and going to the ballpark, how things can happen. That’s what’s happened in this country. In my everyday life, that’s not something I really think about. I ... just get in the car and go to the ballpark. But to have players talking about the simple things, going into a grocery store, that’s an eye-opener, and that’s something that really reached my heart.

“I apologized. I didn’t pay enough attention -- and I will now, I can promise you that -- to what’s really going on in this country. And I think that’s what came out of it for me and a lot of my players, my coaching staff, by listening to everybody speak, how hard it is on an everyday basis for these young men. I’ll be better for it, I can promise you that. I’m more aware now than I’ve ever been, and I think that’s what came out of that meeting.”

The Tigers were scheduled to host a screening of the Jackie Robinson movie “42” on Friday at Chevrolet Plaza at Little Caesars Arena as part of its Summer Cinema Series, with local baseball and softball players invited. Shawn Wilson, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, wore a 42 jersey to throw out a virtual first pitch prior to Friday’s doubleheader.

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The Tigers also acknowledged local Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar, Alana Mensah, for her scholastic and community endeavors.

Major League Baseball chose to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Aug. 28 for two reasons. It’s the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, which the Robinson family attended, and it also is the date in 1945 when Robinson and Branch Rickey met to discuss Robinson's future as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In conjunction with the celebration, MLB announced a partnership extension with the JRF Scholarship Program, the Jackie Robinson Museum and the annual JRF ROBIE Awards. The extension is through 2023 and includes a $3.5 million commitment on behalf of MLB.

Trade talk
Tigers general manager Al Avila said Thursday he had been with 20 clubs in recent days about possibilities leading up to Monday’s Trade Deadline. And yet, it felt like he was hearing a similar story 20 times.

“It almost sounds like a broken record,” Avila said, “because they're all going through similar things: injuries, lack of performance, playing a lot of games in a row with little days off. It sounds like a lot of teams are in the same situation.

“Obviously, there are some teams that are looking for pitching, as always. But in saying that, it's really hard to gauge how much a team really is going to go out and try to add, and how much they're willing to give. Right now, it's really uncertain.”

Whether there’s a match for the Tigers, at least in Avila’s eyes, appears shaky. They’re not buyers, but he isn’t conceding them as sellers either, at least not in the sense of the last few years. They’re still building for the future, but that future is close.

The better chance for a match, Avila suggested, might be a like-for-like trade that improves both clubs in the near term.

“I don't see us as buyers unless we can pull out a deal where it's a good match with another club that they can use one of our players to make themselves better, and we can use one of their players to make ourselves better,” Avila said. “Those deals are very difficult and far between. I wouldn't say we're sellers, and I wouldn't say we're buyers. I'd say we're looking for an opportunity to make our team better this year, next year and the year after that.”

Quick hits
• Utilityman is close to a return from the injured list, Avila said. might not be far behind, though the Tigers haven’t discussed how they would use the veteran right-hander now that their rotation includes top prospects and .

• Outfielder was called up from the team's alternate training site in Toledo, Ohio, as an extra player for Friday’s doubleheader.