Tigers Offer Advice to Young Fans at Northern Michigan Stop

It’s pretty tough to upstage a room full of professional baseball players, but six-year-old Blake Helsel found a way.

During an appearance by Tigers players and staff at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City, attendees were invited to ask questions of their favorite players.

Helsel walked up to the microphone, proudly wearing a Tigers shirt. He said he had a question for outfielder Rajai Davis.

“Look at my jersey,” he said. “It’s blank.”

Tigers dessert

With a laughing crowd as the soundtrack, Davis quickly remedied Helsel’s blank shirt with a marker and his autograph, much to the delight of everyone watching.

The Tigers were in town as part of their recent Winter Caravan tour and shared breakfast with Northern Michigan fans on Friday, Jan. 23. The event was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and raised money for the Rotary clubs in Cadillac, Traverse City, Bellaire, and Petoskey. A silent and live auction at the event also raised funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Tigers Foundation.

Blake Helsel attended the event with his dad Paul Helsel and brother Lane Helsel, 12. With a dad who built a baseball field in the cornfield behind their home, it’s pretty easy to see where the youngster gets his love of baseball.

“It was awesome,” Paul Helsel said of the Tigers visit. “It was just amazing.”

Here’s what a few of the Tigers in attendance had to say to the crowd:

Rajai Davis: Besides making a dream come true for Helsel, Davis offered his best advice for young players aspiring to make it to the major leagues.

“You’ve gotta have fun,” he said.

Davis also said getting out there and practicing as much as possible when he was younger set him up for success. He’d go out and swing at balls on his own if he couldn’t find anyone to pitch to him. He also had advice for parents of young athletes.

“Support your kids,” he said. “It means the world to them.”

When he was asked about a memorable walk-off grand slam he hit last summer, Davis said “it was an exciting moment. To celebrate at home plate is just something you dream about.”

Steven Moya: A young fan asked Moya how it felt to get his first major league hit when he was called up to play with the Tigers last September. The Detroit prospect said he was excited and nervous, but when he made contact and got to first base, he described the experience as amazing.

“It was like too many emotions together,” Moya said.

Yoenis Cespedes/Jose Iglesias: A fan asked outfielder Cespedes if he’s excited about playing for Detroit after being traded from the Boston Red Sox. Cespedes responded in Spanish, with translation help from infielder Iglesias.

“He’s really excited and he says Iglesias is a really good looking guy,” Iglesias said, with roars of laughter over the joke.

Iglesias said Cespedes said he really is glad to be in Detroit and that he’s looking forward to the 2015 season starting.

The breakfast crowd listens to Al Avila talk about Tigers players and prospects for the 2015 season.
The breakfast crowd listens to Al Avila talk about Tigers players and prospects for the 2015 season.

Shane Green: A mom asked Green how her son could avoid injury as a pitcher. He told her son to avoid curveballs and breaking balls until he was older.

“Stay off the mound as much as possible until you’re older and your muscles catch up,” he said.

Alan Trammell: The former shortstop and current special assistant to the Tigers fielded questions about his role with the team. Trammell said he plans to be a “jack of all trades” and that he’ll do whatever he can to contribute to the team, saying “I want to work.”

“This is a damn good ball club and I’m proud to be a part of it,” he said.

Trammel also mentioned that he was planning to head to the U.P. after the Winter Caravan was over to snowmobile with former Tiger Kirk Gibson.

Mario Impemba: The announcer said he pulled out media credentials from the AL Central Division playoffs from his suit jacket and vowed that next year when he visits, he’ll be pulling out World Series credentials.

“There are a lot of great Tigers fans in this part of the state,” Impemba said of the Northern Michigan crowd.

Al Avila
Al Avila

Al Avila: The team’s vice president and assistant general manager said he’s looking forward to working with and watching a healthy team this year.

“It’s going to be an exciting team to watch,” Avila said.

When asked about future acquisitions for the team, Avila kept mum, only praising the players currently on the roster.

“These are the guys we’re going into spring training with and the guys who are going to take us to the promised land,” Avila said.

Are you excited about the start of spring training? Give us your 2015 Tigers feedback in the comments and more importantly, if you caught Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson snowmobiling in the U.P. recently, we want to see pictures!

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Photo credit: Julie Bitely

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