Catching up with former Tiger Mike Maroth

Detroit Tigers

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Mike Maroth often doesn’t pop up among the most famous Tigers of the past 20 years, but arguably no Tiger better represents the franchise’s rise from 119 losses to the World Series.

Maroth lost 21 games in 2003, and he remains the last Major League pitcher with 20 losses in a season. But he tossed a one-hitter against the Yankees the following summer, and was part of the 2006 AL champions. He later coached in the Tigers organization and elsewhere.

MLB.com: How did it come about that you returned to UCF to coach?

Maroth: I chose to not go back to [coaching in] pro ball, just to be home more. My son was a senior [in high school]; now he’s in college, and just being away from home for months at a time, I just needed to change. I had no idea what I was going to do next. I didn’t know if I was going to be in baseball anymore. I went back to school to finish up my degree and start figuring out what’s next. And then the pitching coach here left to go to pro ball. I’ve built a relationship with [UCF head coach Greg Lovelady] over the past few years, and so he reached out and we just started talking.

MLB.com: How much do you talk to your players about your experiences in college and as a Major Leaguer?

Maroth: A little bit. They’ll ask me stuff and that’s usually when I’ll open up. But if there’s something from my experience that I feel like can help them, I definitely use that, because I feel like my experience is a huge part of my coaching — using what I know and what they’re going through and being able to relate to them.

MLB.com: With all the data available, even at the college level, do you ever look and wonder, what if you had all this available when you played?

Maroth: Honestly, I don’t know if I’d even be around, because everything’s so numbers-driven. In my playing career, velocity was the only number you could get. Now, with all the different numbers, you’re looking for stuff, you’re looking for outliers. You can look for characteristics of pitches and determine how good a guy’s stuff is. If I had the numbers, I think that it would help in scouting and game-planning. I think it would definitely have made a big difference.

MLB.com: Twenty years ago was the 20-loss season. Do your players ever ask about it? A lot of them weren’t even born then.

Maroth: Now you’re really making me feel old. [Laughs] But yeah, it really doesn’t get talked about much, which is fine with me.

MLB.com: Did it come up at all last year when Patrick Corbin was at 17 losses in August?

Maroth: Yeah, I think some reporters reached out. Never really responded, though. Yeah, it’s part of history, whatever. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. It’s just, at this point, that was 20 years ago. So much has changed in my life over the last 20 years.

MLB.com: I remember the way you handled it with class then, when Brian Kingman (the previous MLB pitcher to lose 20 games) followed the team around and was there to watch it in Toronto. And I figured you wouldn’t do the same if anyone came close.

Maroth: Yeah, it’s part of what I went through and I accept that. But it’s not something I’m going to [try to] gain attention from. Like I said, there’s so much more in my life now, 20 years ahead, being in the present.

MLB.com: The way you carried yourself through it, is that something you can pass along about dealing with adversity?

Maroth: Yeah, there’s a lot of things that I went through during that year that I can use from a mental standpoint and be able to not only relate with guys, but help them and challenge them. I can relate to a lot of things when guys are really struggling, just from my struggles. I think that makes a huge difference.

MLB.com: What was the toughest part of that season?

Maroth: Obviously there was a lot of focus as the year went on and we struggled. Just making it through that year for sure was a challenge, and being so young, it being my first full year [in the Majors]. When I look back, I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, to be honest. I can see it both ways, just because I’m so young and I don’t know much else and I don’t have anything really to compare it to.

MLB.com: You were the No. 1 starter without a full season in the Majors, which is incredible.

You guys talked about me being the veteran on the staff, and when I heard that, I couldn’t fathom it. I knew that wasn’t the case, even though I had the most experience because we were so young.

MLB.com: Is there a favorite moment?

Maroth: I think it just had to do with the support from [my wife] Brooke, knowing that we were going to have our first child. That helped me. She was completely supportive of everything I was going through. She was right there for me, and just to be able to keep things in perspective. I think that really helped.

MLB.com: Do you think we’ll ever see anyone else lose 20 games in a season?

Maroth: I don’t think so. Who knows? There’s some of those stats, records out there that just aren’t going to be broken because the game has changed so much. Guys don’t throw nearly as many starts. They don’t go as deep into a game. Guys don’t throw the same number of innings in a year that I did, and even before. And that’s just because the game continues to change.

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