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A Moment in Jim Leyland's Office

Find out what my experience of talking to Detroit Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, in his office was like.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending the entire day at Comerica Park. I watched batting practice on the field, talked with several Tigers, had Prince Fielder refer to me as his “Buddy,” ate press box food with all of the professional reporters and writers, hung out with Fox 2 celebrities all day in Ryan Ermanni and Charlie Langton (My dad), helped shoot “Let it Rip” on the stadium concourse, had $1 hot dogs in the secret empoyee’s lounge, then I watched the game live from the press box, watched the post game fireworks on the field, headed inside to the Tigers Clubhouse after the game, listened to Miguel Cabrera’s post game interview, and even asked Justin Verlander a question in his post game interview after he threw a complete game. Pretty complete day huh? Well actually, I left out the best part.

My day all started at 3:35 in the office of Detroit Tigers manager, Jim Leyland. About 15 of us huddled in the skipper’s office as he lit up a cigarette, watched the Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees game, and opened the floor up for questions. I sat in the office as five or six questions went by, and after Quintin Berry got brought up, I decided what the heck. I had a question in mind, and I figured I’d ask the man the question. It didn’t cross my mind at the time that an 18 year-old job shadow (In the company of grown men, with ages ranging from approximately 25-60+) with a Tigers hat on, sitting in the back of a room of a World Series manager might come off as a little bit strange to Leyland. Looking back on it, I don’t know what I was thinking. My mentor even told me to just sit back and watch the press conference, and later on in the day, a man who has been covering the Tigers for years, told me that it took him three years to ask the old school manager a question.

Anyway, I went for it, “Jim. I know that Berry isn’t in the lineup tonight with a lefty on the mound. Moving forward, as you face five lefties in a row, how will you use Quintin in these upcoming games?” He picked up his head, looked me directly in the eye, and answered my question. He explained that you have to “Pick your spots” with him in the upcoming games and that he would probably start against a slower lefty, like Kansas City’s Bruce Chen. He also mentioned that he was going to have to “Watch him too.” Berry plays a very fast paced game, and Leyland doesn’t want him to wear down.

It was actually a very genuine and thorough answer. Another reporter even ended up asking a follow up question. Leyland then went on to crack a few jokes. A reporter asked him if he was going to have to watch Verlander extra carefully do to the intense heat, Leyland responded with, “You have to watch me extra carefully, I’m old.” He then went on to say that the stadium would “Probably sell a lot of beer tonight.”

As I left the office, I began to realize how awesome the experience actually was. I was probably about ten years younger than everyone in that office, but Leyland still took me serious and answered my question the best that he could. He told me his plans for Quintin Berry in the future and told me what type of pitchers he thought Berry could be successful against.

It turns out that Leyland did exactly what he told me he would. He told me that he was going to have to pick his spots when choosing to play Berry. Well, in the 8th inning of today’s game against the Minnesota Twins, Leyland did just that. Berry didn’t start the game, but Leyland thought that with a runner on 3rd base and Ryan Raburn due up, that it would be a perfect time to pinch hit. Berry ended up walking, and scoring a run in the inning that saw Detroit strike for five runs and take a 7-3 lead, that score ended up being the final.

View Leyland any way you want. Criticize him for making “wrong” decisions at times, complain that you want him to be fired, or laugh at him because he sometimes eats his dinner during post game interviews. The fact is, Jim Leyland is a legend, I am honored that he was the biggest part of my first day as a big league reporter.

I will continue to be a huge supporter and I will always respect him for the way that he treated me for the brief moments that I was in his office.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

James Nahikian July 12, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Good point, you are right sir!
John McKay July 12, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Keep up the great work, James. I shared your blog on our site because I loved the enthusiasm of seeing what goes on behind the curtain. Being a journalist, I've been afforded some opportunities few will ever get to experience (field passes for U-M football? Yep!) and while I had to maintain my composure and go about my work as neutrally and professionally as possible in each "wow-am-I-really-doing-this?" assignment, part of me wishes I had an outlet to just talk about how cool it was. I'm glad you're finding Patch blogs a tool to do just that and I love reading stuff like this. And I especially love that you asked Jim Leyland a thoughtful question and received a thoughtful response. Too often at sports pressers on TV, I see people looking for a killer sound byte or trying to start controversy and we ultimately learn nothing of value from the questions — or answers. It's apparent you both know and love the game. We're community journalists, so we seldom get to do stuff like this, but I was thrilled to interview Curtis Granderson back in '09 at my old paper and I've interviewed several current and former Red Wings for Patch. So long as you never get jaded about it, it never gets old. Keep it up - both the enthusiasm and quality!
Sue Martin July 12, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Listen, I've been teaching language arts for 20+ years. But look over any of my blog entries, and I'm sure there are some technical mistakes as well as some very blatant and obvious mistakes. The point is getting the thoughts out on paper. Blogging is writing on the fly and for immediate publication; editors are for polished pieces! Keep writing!
Betsy Bomber July 12, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I envy what you had as an experience, with the Tigers. From the way you wrote it, I believe you have a bright career ahead of you, if you so choose.
Jay July 16, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Sometimes you just have to ask that question that's in the back of your head before the front of your head says no! Nothing to lose but a few minutes of dignity if it don't work out! good job.

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