Tonight is Game 1 of the World Series.
People who know me realize that outside of the Phillies, there aren’t many teams I’ll pull for. I have a couple of other teams I’ve been able to get behind over the years, but for the most part, if it’s not the Phillies, I’m not cheering.
This year is slightly different.
With the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, I can root for a team. See, from 2004-09, I covered Detroit’s Single-A short-season squad in Oneonta. It was one of my career goals — covering pro baseball. I enjoyed every aspect of it and over the six years, I met a lot of different personalities. I always got along quite well with the managers and coaches that were sent to Oneonta and many players were extremely fun to deal with.
I won’t lie that some teams were better than others to cover. The same can be said about all managers, coaches and players.
But the two years Tom Brookens was the manager of this team made it a lot of fun to cover the squad.
What I always liked about Brookens was his straight-shooting style. He didn’t hold anything back. He remained calm, but he would tell it like it is. And I liked that. He did things based on a mutual respect.
At the beginning of his first season, I spoke with him in-depth for several stories. We were in the dugout during a workout chatting about the team, season and, when the interviews were done, just some chatter about other things.
But professionally he asked one thing — after the game, he would like about five minutes or so to speak to the team. After that, it was open game. And if a player refused to talk for whatever reason, to get him and he’d help with the situation. See, being in the minors is more than just adjusting to play baseball at the professional level. It’s learning all the nuances, such as dealing with fans, media and everything else.
Especially at the level I covered.
Brookens made it that much more fun.
Those two years (2005-06) were also excellent when it came to minor leaguers in the Detroit system.
Brookens’ 2005 team went 48-27 and won the division. That team featured 10 players who, at some point, would at least get a taste of the major leagues. Some of them, such as Matt Joyce (now with the Tampa Bay Rays), Burke Badenhop (also now with the Rays) Guillermo Moscoso (now with the Rockies) and Will Rhymes (also with the Rays) would go on see some significant time in the majors. Joyce was a 2011 All-Star and Badenhop has been a reliever at the top level for several years with the Marlins and Rays.
The following season, Oneonta went 44-32, again winning the division. Seven players on that team have major league experience, including Brennan Boesch, who has been on the big team for the past couple of years. He hasn’t been on the playoff roster this year, however, as he was a bit cold down the stretch.
That team also featured Casper Wells (now with the Mariners), Casey Fien (who pitched in 35 games with the Twins this year) and Cristhian Martinez, who has pitched out of the pen for Florida (2009) and Atlanta (2010-12).
There’s much I remember about “Brookie,” including is southern Pennsylvania sound, his way of dealing with players and the way he always treated everybody with respect. He also made himself available to me for future stories, even after he left this team as he climbed the ranks. In the end, he always showed how much of a class act he is and for that, he’s always been my favorite manager I dealt with.
And, with knowing some people in the organization, it’s nice to see some of these people reach this level and have a chance at that ring.
I watched as the Tigers swept the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and as the celebration unfolded, I saw Brookens with that big smile and his signature mustache among the crowd. It was easy to smile and be happy for this squad.
Brookens won a World Series as a player (1984 with Detroit), and if the Tigers win, this will be his first as a coach.
Knowing what kind of person Brookens is makes it easy to cheer for a Detroit World Series title this season.
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