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.
Home run celebrations are the latest craze across the Major Leagues. The Blue Jays made it popular last year with a home run jacket. The Mariners took it to another level by using a trident with their celebration this season. The Orioles had a chain for home-run hitters to wear last year but went viral recently with the “Homer Hose,” a funnel and tube from which a slugger chugs water after a home run.
The Tigers, until last week, had nothing.
“It felt like we were the only team without a celebration,” Spencer Torkelson said this week, “so I did some thinking.”
He needed only to look a few blocks down the street from Comerica Park.
While Detroit has a rich baseball history as one of the American League’s charter cities, it’s also known as Hockeytown for its Red Wings. The two franchises share the same ownership. Torkelson has an affinity for hockey, having played for years as a kid growing up in California. So they decided to make an homage.
“I thought that was a cool idea,” he said.
Torkelson reached out to Tigers personnel and asked about getting some gear. Just in time for the Tigers’ most recent road trip, he got a Red Wings helmet, gloves and a stick. After Zach McKinstry homered Saturday off O’s starter Kyle Gibson, he was wearing a Red Wings helmet, holding a stick and mimicking a slap shot when he reached the Tigers dugout’s end.
They’re far from the first team to celebrate a big event in their sport by playing out something from another sport. J.J. Watt became famous in the NFL for his sack celebrations, which involved mimicking a home-run swing. Other football players over the years have celebrated touchdowns with jump shots.
“I know I need to get a righty stick,” Torkelson said Wednesday. “But so far, only lefties have hit homers.”
Torkelson knows a thing or two about slap shots. He played from age 8 to 12, he said, before having to make a decision. Once he neared high school, he had to decide between playing club hockey or high-school football, and chose the latter.
What position did he play?
“Center,” Torkelson said. “I love scoring. I had a pretty good wrist shot. But, I mean, we weren’t running plays out there. It was like a bunch of fast breaks, flying around. We’d get the puck and see if I could get past the defense and how fast they could pass it to me.”
Correspondingly, he was a San Jose Sharks fan growing up, and followed their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2016.
“It was always my dream to put on an NHL helmet,” Torkelson said.
Now he can, even if it’s just for a walk through the dugout at the end of a trip around the bases.