Detroit Tigers’ Akil Baddoo continues amazing, ridiculous fairy-tale start to his career

Detroit Free Press

This is one bad dude.

One big, bad … Akil Baddoooooo!

OK. Sorry.

It’s still ringing in my ears. Because this kid, this wild start, these magical moments, it has gone from entertaining to jaw dropping to shake-your-head in disbelief amazing.

Baddoo, a 22-year-old rookie, has played in three games for the Detroit Tigers — and he has produced three unforgettable fairy-tale moments that just keep getting better.

In his Major League debut on Sunday afternoon, Baddoo hit the first pitch he saw and magic  flashed through Comerica Park. It was like watching Jack climbing up the beanstalk, and he was carrying all of the Tigers fans with him.

Home run. On his first swing. After wrestling his brother the night before. Well, of course he did. A kid acting like a kid until he comes to the plate.

What a great story.

Then came Monday.

In an ugly, otherwise completely forgettable loss, Baddoo swung his bat again — and another burst of magic dust covered Comerica Park. It was like watching the princess kiss the frog, a prince arrived and the ball sailed over the fence — all at the same time.

Grand slam.

What? In his second game?

This was wild.

And you probably thought: OK, just enjoy this. Because it can’t get any better than this. Right?

And then came Tuesday.

In just the third game of his career, Baddoo came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Minnesota Twins, the team that gave up on him, allowing the Tigers to take him in this winter’s Rule 5 draft.

Yes, the background is important, if not poetic in so many ways.

Baddoo took the first two pitches, both balls, which says so many things. He wasn’t freaking out. He wasn’t lunging at anything.

He was as calm and steady as ever.

When he finally found the pitch he wanted — an 86 mph slider — and hit a line drive into right field. It was like watching Cinderella slipping on the shoe. More magic. More smiles. More beanstalks. More “SportsCenter” moments. More big, bad Baddoooo!

Base hit. Walk-off single.

Tigers win, 4-3.

Amazing. Ridiculous. Crazy.

Let the celebration begin.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: Baddoo was surprise of spring. It was a no brainer to keep him.

“That feeling right there is the best,” he said. “I want that feeling every time. I want a single over a home run, so we can win every day. So that was a really good feeling.”

The Tigers celebrated by hitting Baddoo with a bucket of water and shaving cream and powder.

Just keep your eyes closed, kid.

“I am literally covered in shaving cream, soda, water, powder, I’m trying to regroup right now, but it’s everywhere,” he said on a Zoom call.

Wait a second. That’s pop, kid, not soda.

You are in Michigan now, but we’ll forgive you for that.

“This is crazy,” he said, “Like I said, I’m glad we got the W.”

He started laughing, almost in disbelief.

“That was a great effort,” he said. “We put a lot in that one.”

[ Why Grayson Greiner, not Wilson Ramos, is catching Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize ]

No doubt.

That shouldn’t be lost in this moment.

Even though Baddoo finished this game with his magical touch, it was a true team win.

Tigers manager AJ Hinch has been focusing on tiny details and preaching doing things the right way since he arrived.

And you can see Hinch’s influence show up all over the field.

There was Jeimer Candelario making some great defensive plays. But Candelario’s approach at the plate has been a thing of beauty. In the 10th inning, Candelario had a nine-pitch at-bat before putting the ball in play and moving the runner from second to third, setting everything up.

That was huge.

The Tigers saved runs by playing the infield in and cutting off runners at the plate — that’s been a Hinch emphasis all spring.

“It was amazing,” Baddoo said. “Like I said, (Gregory) Soto pitched a hell of a game. (Casey) Mize, his start was amazing. (Niko) Goodrum hit well. (Robbie) Grossman — it was it was a good team effort. And we didn’t quit and we kept going.”

A pure team win.

With a fairy-tale ending.

But how long can this kid keep doing this?

I’ll tell you one thing: Baddoo has the perfect demeanor. He is calm and collected. He’s strong and disciplined at the plate. Clearly, the big moment doesn’t faze him.

He’s riding a tsunami of momentum and confidence.

And the bigger the moment, the more his heart seems to slow down.

In short, this kid has some serious skills.

“I think one of the things that we’ve talked about him since Day 1 has been his maturity and his calmness and his demeanor,” Hinch said. “There’s so much to like about him in those moments. … Very patient at-bat against a guy who’s been a closer in the past so obviously an unbelievable ending for him.”

All right — one last time for the folks in back.

The hero in this fairy tale is one big, bad Badddooooooo!

“Excuse me,” Baddoo said, coughing. “The powder. It’s still stuck in there. I need some water.”

Better wash that down with some pop, kid.

You’re not going anywhere.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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