August 2006

Staying loose during the stretch run

Natepitching

Thanks to everyone who has checked in on the push-pin map. The response has been unbelievable. They’re coming in from all over.

Obviously this past week or so we haven’t had a whole lot of stories to tell. It was funny. FSN did the Tigers Weekly piece on it, and did a really good job on it, too. And it seemed like as soon as it showed on Friday, we’ve had chances, and every time we put in, man, nothing happened. We were looking around thinking maybe we have to get a new supply or something.

There’s the reality of baseball, though, for fans reading in on this. You play 162 games, there’s magic throughout the year and obviously for the teams at the end making a run and contending for a championship, they have a little more magic than the next team. But it obviously was a rough week. One thing that hasn’t swayed is the chemistry of this team, although right now we’re probably falling on our toughest stretch of the year. We haven’t really been used to that. It’s funny, because people say we haven’t had one of these. Listen, there’s a group of guys here that had a lot of these three years ago. I was talking to Inge the other day about that. It’s like, this is nothing compared to falling on real hard times. So there’s still the attitude here, just so people know. I think it’s important, not only the fun of the game and the light-heartedness of the game with the Gum Time and all that, but on the serious side of things people following along, fans are probably uneasy about things. But just to let them know from what’s going on here with the guys, there is no true fall-off or panic or anything like that.

Ingecelebration
Guys are still having a good time. And the people that follow along need to still be having fun, too. That’s the one thing that you can fall into is that you stop having fun and you start worrying. Continue to have fun. Continue to enjoy this year. Continue to follow along and follow the stories and have fun with it. Because if you don’t enjoy it, it can turn into a miserable season real quick if you don’t think about what’s been good. So that’s what the focus has been in here is on not just going out there and trying to produce and everything like that, but just enjoy it, enjoy what we’re doing. Know what we still have to do but enjoy what we’ve been doing here.

That’s the biggest thing for this week. It’s been fun with the rally strikes again and we come back and it’s like everybody expects it. Well, you know, it’s baseball, and the month of August has been a torturous one. It’s tough.

The other thing about it is the parity in baseball. What people should really enjoy is the fact that baseball is not one-sided. There was a stretch for 10 years or so when the payroll-dominant teams just kind of wiped everybody out. That’s not the case now. It seems like it gets more competitive year to year as time goes on. That has a lot to do with the fresh talent coming in, guys that maybe weren’t expected to come in and have big years that are having big years. We have several of those guys on this team. That’s fun. That’s beautiful when you have however many teams are in it still. Probably half the teams in the big leagues are still hopefuls, still within striking distance. That’s what’s fun about it, and that’s what people should look at. Their team has a chance to do something. Not only what we’ve done, but just in baseball as a sport, as a game, to enjoy that. And like I said, unfortunately, this past week or so, we’ve come up dry, you know? It seems like every time we put it in, we’re looking around.

Tigersdugoutgum

But certainly, just because we haven’t had a whole lot of stories to report on that, doesn’t mean we won’t have a lot more coming up. We go to New York for a big three-game series. People said our schedule in September lightens up. What? You’ve got Minnesota on that schedule. You’ve got Toronto on that schedule. You’ve got the White Sox on that schedule, the Angels on that schedule. These are all contending teams here all the way to the end. But the guys in here are certainly excited about the challenge of it all and we still, regardless of how it’s been doing, we still have our chew here, man.

We got four cases shipped to us in Cleveland, so we haven’t given up on that. That’s one thing we’ve agreed on is we’ve stuck with it all year. Those rallies helped us get to where we are today and we ain’t gonna give up on it now.

That’s the biggest thing about baseball — really any sport, but especially baseball, because of the longevity of the season — is sticking with what got you there — no pun intended on the sticking — and still believing in it. It would be easy to say things aren’t working right now, let me try something different. Well, what’s different isn’t what got you there. Adjustments? Yeah, but not some dramatic big change. So we’ve not giving up on that.

We’ve still got our gum supplies in there. Our clubhouse manager, Jim Schmakel, made sure we have plenty. I might try some different flavors, though, because I popped on that sour cherry and it ain’t working. That’s what I’ve had the last few times. That one and regular are about the only two I can handle when I throw a full pack in. We may try something different. There’s some cotton candy flavor in there. Maybe it’s the stuff that’ll work. I have a buddy who’s a scout. He told me they had it up in the press box. That’s so funny.

I’ll tell you what, the one thing is, though, is that there’s a city that has come together because of a baseball team that’s doing so well and people follow. For us, people that have been here since 2003, we get to see a change in attitude of the team and what we’re doing. I’m not saying the love and the faithfulness wasn’t there before, but the appreciation of what’s going on with this team and the following — people coming on road trips and just passionately wanting to be part of this whole thing — that’s awesome. We as a team really, really enjoy that. Really, the funny thing is the fans aren’t giving up on what got us there. I go out there over the weekend, I had a rough start in my last outing, are people are out there with their Gum Time t-shirts on and say they brought their rally chews. They say they don’t want to use it. They want us to jump out and stay out front, so we don’t have to rally or anything like that. And I said, "I hear ya, bro. Stick it away. I don’t want to use it, either."

Toddjones
Todd Jones made a good point the other day. He said, "We don’t ever want it to be Gum Time, do we?" I said, "You know what? You’re right." Because if it’s Gum Time, we’re either behind or it’s late in the game and it’s knotted up. But we’re still having fun with it.

One thing about the t-shirts: There’s people out there, they see an opportunity and I guess you can’t blame them too much in a free market out there. But we do have people that have trademarked the Gum Time phrase, and there’s a couple places that I have endorsed as far as doing the t-shirt deal with, Fanatic U and a company by the Gumtimetshirt
name of EA Graphics, which gets the t-shirt out. And the only official t-shirts that are out, that I’m aware of, are the ones at Fanatic U that say, "It’s Gum Time" and then the blue ones that say "Detroit Gum Time" and has "Gum Time 29" on the back. I’ve seen other ones that say "Detroit Gum Time — Just Chew It." I had nothing to do with that one. So if people want to know what the official ones are, there it is. They can do whatever they want. Enjoy it. But aside from that, the official ones are the ones at Fanatic U and you’ll see the other ones dispersed throughout the city. There’s actually a new one coming out, and it’s top of the line. It really does kind of blow these out of the water, and it’s not out yet. It’s called "The Chew Crew" and it’s got a Big League Chew pouch, and this guy did a caricature of me on a pouch of it. And it’s a good one, too. People who followed along on the original Gum Time moment, they’ll like this one. The other ones were more of a general t-shirt that kept me out of it, something more universal. And that’s what it’s about, it’s about everybody. We’ll have a couple more t-shirts out. But like I said, there are official ones and there are unofficial ones.

Yankeecrowd_1
Pitching in New York will be different. My first start there was in ’03, and that was just a moment type of thing. Obviously, we were pretty far out of it, but I pitched pretty good there. I haven’t pitched there since ’04 and it’ll be special. The thing is, teams like New York, especially in that atmosphere, those are the types of atmosphere that we’re going to play in. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere. Looking forward to the challenge, and looking forward to bouncing back from a tough outing.

Gum Time goes global!

Swisshorn

Just to let you know, we’ve had two international entries to the blog — one from Switzerland. They said Gum Time’s made it all the way to Switzerland, and the guy said he’s ordered his Big League Chew to be shipped overseas. And there’s another guy from Glasgow, Scotland, who wrote in. And there’s a lot of Canadians who wrote in. So we’re international now. I love it, man. The Internet’s amazing. We’ve got people from all over the place. Now there’s a push-pin GuestMap (the "ChewMap") right at the top of this blog so you can add yourself there and post a message about where you’re throwing in chew.

Here’s another funny little story: A server at Hockeytown Café says Hockeytown now sells Big League Chew. A girl named Erica wrote in and told the story that the night Pudge hit the walkoff homer in the ninth inning, they started passing it out at Hockeytown. She said they sell it and they all threw it in, and when Pudge hit the home run they all went nuts. I guess they must have been chewing it at the bar. You can chalk one up for Hockeytown. That’s hilarious.

Also, this guy writes in and said his wife was taking the Michigan bar exam. He said she called up and she’s got a lot on her mind trying to pass it, and so he threw in a pack of Big League Chew either right when she was taking the test or right before she was taking the test. He said they won’t know in November if she gets in, but we’re not just using it now for baseball and racing. We’re beyond that now.

TigershighfiveOther than that, talking about the team, it’s been really big the past week or two, obviously going into a tough series against Minnesota, losing a couple real tough games at home, especially that one late. We went into Chicago, another huge series, team right behind us, just the psychology of the game and how this team’s been dealing with things. A lot of people on the outside looking in kind of see the point where maybe we panic, a point of uncertainty.

For us to respond like we did in Boston — in a hostile environment, where we haven’t played well in the past, where it’s very tough to win — the wonderful thing about this team is the resiliency because of what people think is going to happen. I mean, it was in everybody’s head. I don’t care who you are, how much of a fan you are or how much you believe in us as a team, you thought about it: We’re not in a good situation. That’s going to be the general thought. For us to win here Monday and to come back and win a grinder Tuesday, the way all the guys have chipped in and performed in some way or another, defensively, or a key hit, or obviously pitching. Just coming in, making plays and making throws and just believing we can do it and getting it done, it’s huge. That right there says a lot about where we are as a team and how we continue to be able to win, especially when you’ve got Schilling on the mound having a great year Seanand he’s got a one-run lead late in the game. People are still waiting to see what Sean Casey is going to do for us, but we know what he can do, and he comes up again big. This series has been huge.

By the way, the inning when we scored two runs Tuesday, the top of the seventh, Kenny said, "Let’s throw it in." Again, the only time we put it in was the top of the seventh. Sean Casey comes up, and I said, "We’re going to hit a gap shot right here." We all got it in. Gap shot. Right before he hit it, I called the shot and where it was going to go. Verlander and Miner were standing right there. Sure enough, right in the gap, we take the lead and it’s almost like guys are looking over in your dugout and thinking you’re getting some kind of psychological advantage on when they see all these idiots with gum in their mouth. Well, the Red Sox have had their share of characters, too, but it’s unbelievable. Gum aside, it’s like you believe it’s going to happen. Now, when it’s going to happen, you don’t really know, but it always seems to happen once you start throwing this gum in. It’s great. And again, winning game one and obviously getting off the streak was probably to that point the biggest game of that road trip.

Then being able to go into game two, and a tough game for us because it means taking a series, in this environment, for the team to do it, it just adds to that level of confidence what this team can do, what we’re
capable of doing. It’s great, man. It’s doiMeng a lot for us for down the road. What we’re doing now is like an investment of what’s to come. Each game it seems like a moment’s going to happen. Even if it doesn’t happen, it seems like it’s going to happen. And we’ve got not only the team, but the fans write in. Each story revolves around a pack of gum and throwing a big wad in and all that, but it’s just a fact that they believe it’s going to happen. That’s what makes it special. We didn’t have a pack in for the ninth inning Tuesday, but I’m pretty sure it was in somewhere. I think I got an entry just the other day saying somebody in the left field seats at Fenway said they’re going to have their chew in. People have their gum in, maybe at Hockeytown, maybe in Glasgow. Somebody’s going to claim that run. We have fun with it, but we do it one time. Kenny was wearing his bib again, because he has to wipe off all his drool, all his spit, because he can’t take all that gum.

People are following along, and they’re really having fun with it. I get new entries all the time, people who just found out we have the blog and people who continue to follow along. Don’t forget to push your pin in the GuestMap and show where you’re throwing it in.

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Map

I’ve been really having fun seeing where all these people have been writing in from. One guy says he’s down here in Covington, La. And then there’s Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Ga.; Lawrence, Kan.; southern Illinois. It reminds me of that Johnny Cash song, "I’ve Been Everywhere," when he starts running off all the cities. If you want to continue writing in response, just let me know where you’re writing from, whether you’re out of state or wherever, and then also share some of your stories — not so much personal, like what’s going on with your Little League team and whatever else, but moreso tell me stories of when you actually put in a rally chew, whether you were at a game or watching a game or listening to a game. I’ve been getting a few of those, but it’s fun to hear when that actually worked for you.

I don’t know if you realize this, but we’ve made ESPN a couple times now — not just the clippings of it but the actual Gum Time drops. Verlander was watching the other night in Tampa Bay, and they had a little drop. And I actually had someone write into the blog saying they dropped Gum Time either on Baseball Tonight or Sportscenter. I haven’t seen it personally, but we’re nationwide now.

The thing is the guys that are real diehard with it, our starting pitchers, we have a little more time to sit around the bench, but we pick and choose our times. This isn’t just something we do every inning and hope it works. Friday night, sixth inning we did it, got a couple runs. In Tampa Bay, when we were down in the seven or eighth inning, we ended up scoring a five spot to go ahead. After it works, we’ll just let whoever else wants to pick it up for the other innings.

Another pretty funny drop was Mickey York of FSN Friday night. Right after the game was over, the camera shot went right to him, he had a big ol’ wad in his jaw. That was pretty funny, so there’s a shout out to Mickey. Good job, buddy.

I have a buddy that I played Minor League baseball with when I was in the Marlins organization. He now works with the Andretti Green racing team. They just had the race out there at Michigan International Speedway, and he blogged in to me and said he was going to take himself some of the gum to the race and see if it worked. I haven’t seen the results of that, so he has to get back to me and let me know if it works. But we’re not just into the game of baseball. We’re going into racing now, too.

I just want to respond to section 104, let them know that I read their entry and I will be looking for them. They have a little section out there. Of course, I don’t think there’s just any one section that’s big on this anymore but they sound like they’ve been one of the loyal ones. From what I’ve retrieved, they’re actually bringing their binoculars out looking, scanning the dugout to see when we start. When they see us start, they roll with it, too.

And then obviously, all the big swings we’ve been getting lately. That’s who the props really go to. We’ve had some big-time clutch hits from guys. Craig’s been amazing in big situations. Guillen, Maggs, Pudge, you can go down the whole list. They just so happen to do something big when we need it most. It’s a contagious feeling. Gum aside, this team is just good. With the atmosphere that we have and I think the fans and the feedback we’ve been getting on this site, we feel like there’s a belief that no matter what it is and when it is in a game, we feel we can win. And that separates a championship team from the teams that are just kind of there. So we have something special going on here. Let’s keep it going.

Bigleaguechew_1
Like I said, if you just want to write back and let me know some or your stories and where you’re writing from, it would be kind of cool. Let’s see if we can cover the country. We have to have at least one Tiger fan in each state that’s following along with this thing. When we came back home this week, that was the most Big League Chew signing requests in the mail that I actually went through. People send in this gum, most of the time to sign, but some of them are sending because they think that’s the special pack that’s going to give us a win.

Casey
We let in our new first baseman, Sean Casey, on Gum Time in Tampa. Me and Bondo, Verlander and Kenny, we all threw it in and had to explain it to him. I kind of started to explain it to him when Grilli had just come off the field in the seventh. This is what typically happens when these guys do this. Sure enough, we put a five-spot up, and I said, "Welcome to the whole Gum Time thing." He said, "I love it." And then I told him the other night that in the sixth inning when we put it in, we only do it one time a game. We pick a time, and the inning that he went up there and doubled. And he was like, "Let’s roll, man." Obviously it was a huge double that got us right back into things, and he loves it. I’ll tell you what, he’s a great addition. He has fun. I mean, Sean’s 32 years old, and he’s like a little kid. Just another little sideshow.

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