DETROIT -- The Tigers will be back later this month to try to give freezing Michiganders a chance to look forward to spring and baseball. They just won’t be doing it at TigerFest.
The team announced Friday it is taking a new look at its winter fan events, including putting its annual fanfest on hold for this offseason. Instead, Tigers players and coaches will return to Detroit for their annual Winter Caravan Jan. 22-24 before holding a free autograph event at The District Detroit complex on Jan. 25.
“Our players and coaches absolutely love coming back to Detroit to see the fans during offseason events like these,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said in a statement. “It doesn’t get much better than Winter Caravan, reminding you of the passion that baseball fans have here in Detroit and throughout the state of Michigan. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the favorite things we do all year.”
As for TigerFest, the team is in the discussion stages of moving the event to the summer to avoid the limitations of Michigan’s usual winter weather.
“We’re very excited to bring new and fresh experiences to fans as we transition TigerFest from a winter to summer event,” said Ellen Zeringue, Tigers vice president of marketing. “By moving TigerFest to the summer, fans will have brand new experiences that include access to the field, more seasonable weather and interactive games and activities that we simply can’t provide in January.”
TigerFest has been a January tradition for at least the past couple decades as the team’s way to build anticipation for the upcoming season. The event had rotated venues for years, including the Michigan State Fairgrounds and Joe Louis Arena, before settling into Comerica Park in the mid-2000s. While the move put the event back in baseball surroundings, it also presented the challenge of protecting fans, players and coaches from the elements, including temperatures that struggled to get out of the teens in some years.
During the height of the Tigers’ success in the early 2010s, TigerFest tickets often sold out within hours when they went on sale each December. Despite the team’s struggles the last couple years, the fans still showed. One factor that helped was the Tigers’ consistent player attendance, from superstars like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander to prospects just added to the 40-man roster.
The Tigers will try to recreate that enthusiasm in a different form. For years, the Winter Caravan has served as a prelude to TigerFest, allowing fans who couldn’t get tickets a chance to see players at stops across Michigan and northwest Ohio. In recent years, that included players trying out other jobs in spots around town, from waiting tables at local restaurants to working the counter at supermarkets. Former Tiger Magglio Ordonez once worked a gate for a Delta flight at Detroit Metro Airport, scanning tickets and delivering announcements.
The Jan. 25 autograph event takes one of the most popular parts of TigerFest and makes it free while still bringing fans downtown. Details are still being finalized, but players are expected to rotate at spots around The District Detroit, much like they did at Comerica Park each TigerFest.