Detroit Tigers’ young arms connect with fans at ‘Detroit’s Biggest Summer Baseball Bash’

Detroit Free Press

Thousands of fans streamed into Comerica Park for the Detroit Tigers‘ replacement for winter’s canceled TigerFest, “Detroit’s Biggest Summer Baseball Bash.” It was a chance  to celebrate baseball, and more importantly, a chance to rally around the Tigers’  young pitching core — Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Gregory Soto — whom they’d mostly only interacted with through their television screens.

Crowds swarmed Mize, Skubal and Soto, in packs that engulfed the entire concourse, with T-shirts, hats, jerseys, baseballs and rookie cards in hand. The crowds were hoping to meet the Tigers before they had to head to the locker room to prepare for Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins

“With COVID happening last year we weren’t allowed in the ballpark or able to meet any of these players so it’s great to be here and see them in person,” said Sierra Ronchetto, of Grosse Pointe. “I’m excited to see our first pick (Mize) and Skubal too, he’s been pitching well. I’m a huge fan and we came out here to meet them get autographs, and show them we and Detroit loves them.”

Mize chatted with fans about baseball gloves and good wishes for the season; he also had a few unusual autograph requests, including signing a fan’s bare back. During the session, he inked multiple Miguel Cabrera jerseys.

“It’s kind of weird,” the 24-year-old said with a laugh. “But I know if Miggy were here, he would have signed it happily for them. I guess I’ll do it for him,”

Mize opened the season with a 5.06 ERA in April. But since the start of May, he has posted a 3.01 ERA while going deeper into games. That has presented an issue for the Tigers; his success has led to a surfeit of innings, resulting in a need for a pitch limit in Mize’s past two starts. Likewise, Mize proved to be a quick study in his interaction with the Tigers’ fanbase.

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“It feels really good. We definitely missed the fans watching (us) play, but even more so being able to interact and do events like this,” Mize said. “It’s my first time doing this since I signed (with the Tigers in 2018). There are definitely things like this that I was looking forward to that I’m getting to enjoy now. So it’s been awesome.”

In all, Mize has a 3.59 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 95⅓ innings. The Alabama native is one of the frontrunners for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

“(Winning) helps a lot,” Mize said. “I know we’re winning games not at a pace we want to just yet, but we’re taking a step forward. It feels good to have fans back and we’re gonna need that support going forward to take this thing to the next level and take it where we want to go.”

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Mize said he enjoyed connecting with the fans and hopes the Tigers’ recent string of winning months (with a 14-13 record in May and June) will encourage fan support throughout the season.

“I hope it definitely encouraged them to come out, just to know that we have a chance to win today’s game, which is AJ (Hinch)’s goal, to win today’s game and we’ve been able to do that at a higher rate,” Mize said. “Hopefully, that brings fans to the ballpark because when they show up, it really drives us to win games and helps us out a lot. “

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