DETROIT -- The Tigers have spent past Winter Caravans firing guns at a police academy, serving coffee at Dunkin' Donuts, working the deli counter at Meijer and dishing out burgers at McDonald's. Next week, they'll be waiting tables at a National Coney Island, sampling a new Tigers ice cream at Hudsonville Creamery and taking a ride in a AAA driving simulator.
Those are among the stops in this year's version of the two-day caravan (Jan. 23-24), which sends Tigers players and coaches out into the community before fans flock to Comerica Park for TigerFest on Jan. 25. Some of the visits are meant for the team to recognize outstanding members of the community. Others are meant for more fun by putting players in other jobs for a spell.
As in past years, the Tigers will branch out in two separate tours. The Metro Bus will shuttle players and team personnel around the local area. The West Bus will carry another group of Tigers to the other side of the state for visits in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek and Holland.
Rosters for the two buses haven't been released, pending some final details. The vast majority of players on the 40-man roster are expected to take part, since they'll be in town for TigerFest. New manager Brad Ausmus, the Tigers coaching staff and much of the broadcast team are also on tour, as well as team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and vice president/assistant GM Al Avila.
A handful of events on the schedule are open to the public, giving fans who can't make it to TigerFest a chance to at least see some of their favorite players before the season opens.
One of those is a kids rally next Thursday, Jan. 23, from 5-6 p.m. ET at Dearborn's Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, where players will hold an interactive rally for young fans to start this year's Tigers Strikeout Bullying campaign. A limited number of tickets are available for the rally at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center box office.
Around the same time that day, fans will have a chance to have their photo taken with two Tigers players at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy in exchange for a donation of at least six cans of food to the American Red Cross. Wristbands will be distributed to 150 fans for a guaranteed photo opportunity starting at 4 p.m.
Later on that evening, Ausmus and outfielder Torii Hunter will be among the Tigers scheduled to join fans in Toledo at the Helping Hens charity benefit dinner, which starts at 6 p.m. at the BirdCage restaurant inside Fifth Third Field. Ausmus and Hunter will take part in a question-and-answer session. Tickets are available at mudhens.com or by calling 419-725-4367.
Also that night, Dombrowski and Max Scherzer are scheduled to visit the Class A West Michigan WhiteCaps and speak at their 20th annual winter banquet at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. It'll be the first visit from the Tigers since fire damaged the Whitecaps' home at Fifth Third Ballpark earlier this month. Proceeds from the dinner will go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation for YMCA Inner City Youth Baseball as well as the Detroit Tigers Foundation.
A mitten and glove collection drive at the dinner will benefit Mittens for Detroit, a charity organized by actress Erin Cummings to provide winter clothing for Detroit and Grand Rapids area residents in need.
Tickets for the dinner are available by calling the Whitecaps at 616-784-4131.
The caravan picks up the next day with several visits, starting with National Coney Island on Van Dyke Avenue in Warren. Two Tigers players will wait tables for customers starting around 11 a.m. After visits to the Canada Border Services Agency, the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and the Hamtramck Fire Department, the Metro Bus will wrap up its tour with stops downtown at the North American International Auto Show and in southwest Detroit at the 555 Gallery for tours and question-and-answer sessions. Both stops are open to the public.
The West Bus is scheduled to visit Holland's Hudsonville Creamery around 10 a.m. for a tour and a community rally. In addition, they'll sample the newly unveiled Tiger Traxx ice cream. Tickets are available at hudsonvilleicecream.com.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.