Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire is apologizing on Jackie Robinson Day. Here’s why


    Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire promises to make personal improvements after hearing his players discuss racial inequality.

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    Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire spoke Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, about MLB’s celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, which normally occurs April 15.

    Detroit Free Press

    Sorry for not asking his players about the simple things — driving to Comerica Park for a game or walking into a grocery store. Some of his players feel endangered by these actions, and they voiced their concerns to him Thursday in the clubhouse meeting before their game with the Minnesota Twins was postponed to protest racial injustice and inequality.

    Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire fist bumps third baseman Jeimer Candelario to celebrate of the Tigers’ 5-4 win at Comerica Park on Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

    « I didn’t pay enough attention, and I will now, » Gardenhire said Friday. « I can promise you that. That’s what came out (of it) for me, a lot of my players and my coaching staff by listening to everybody speak how hard it is on a day-to-day basis for these young men. I’ll be better for it. I can promise you that.

    « I’m more aware now than I’ve ever been. And I think that’s what came out of that meeting. »

    Seven major league games scheduled for Thursday night were postponed. Three others were postponed Wednesday, but the Tigers decided to play that night to finish their series with the Chicago Cubs.

    « We stood united with a lot of teams in baseball about making a change, » Gardenhire said. « We have to get better. This country has to get better and respect everyone. And that’s what we hope happens. »

    The Tigers refused to play in order to protest after last weekend’s police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin. They have a doubleheader scheduled Friday with single games Saturday and Sunday to complete the four-game series with the Twins at Comerica Park.

    The Tigers were scheduled to wear No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson on Friday. The league is celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, even though it normally occurs April 15.  

    « That’s always a special day, and it goes hand-in-hand with what we’re talking about right now, and what we talked about yesterday, » Gardenhire said. « I’ve always enjoyed this day, putting on No. 42. You hear the stories of what he went through. I can only imagine how that would’ve been, just seeing how special of a person and how he handled everything to build a path for other Black players and other people of color to play Major League Baseball.

    The Tigers added outfielder Travis Demeritte as the extra player for  Friday’s doubleheader with the Twins. The organization started the season with him at the alternate training site in Toledo before calling him up July 31 as a replacement for Cameron Maybin, who went to the 10-day injured list.

    On Aug. 14, Demeritte was optioned back to Fifth Third Field to rejoin the reserve squad.

    In nine games this season, he is 2-for-13 with three RBIs, seven strikeouts and one walk. Following his intrasquad game Thursday, he received the call from vice president of player development Dave Littlefield. 

    « We’ve been getting some quality work, playing pretty much a normal season routine, » Demeritte said Friday. « Finish the day off with a good intrasquad. If guys want some extra work afterward, you can get that done. It’s been pretty good. »

    Tigers pinch runner Travis Demeritte slides across home plate to score a run as Pirates pitcher Miguel Del Pozo looks on during the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 17-13 win in extra innings on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

    Regarding the recent protests, Demeritte said he hasn’t spoken to anyone on the big-league club about the topic of inequality. But he shared his own viewpoint.

    « This has been the lifestyle for African American people for a while, » he said. « So I’m glad that there is some enlightenment going on during this time. But, again, things need to change and get better. There’s not really much more we can say or do. Things just have to get better. »

    Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content. 


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