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That Ronnie Warner nearly made it to this year’s World Series as a third base coach for the St. Louis Cardinals — beaten in the National League Championship Series by Washington — begs the question.

Has there ever been Redlands participation in the Fall Classic?

Best anyone can attest to a local ballplayer being part of the World Series dates back to former Angels’ catcher Dan Whitmer, a Redlands High product, who was a Detroit coach.

Whitmer’s playing career concluded in the early 1980s, but somehow he attracted the attention of Detroit Tigers’ eventual Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson.

By 1984, Whitmer was bullpen catcher for the Tigers, a team that won 35 of their first 40 games en route to beating San Diego in the World Series. Whitmer wasn’t around for that hot start, though. He picked up his coaching job at mid-season, having started 1984 playing in Detroit’s minor league system.

Among Whitmer’s duties was warming up relief pitchers.

Willie Hernandez, a southpaw, had a monster year out of the Tigers’ bullpen. He was that year’s Cy Young Award winner, not to mention the American League’s MVP off a 9-3 record, 32 saves, 1.68 ERA, 140 innings over 80 relief appearances.

There was Whitmer, sitting in the Tigers’ ’pen, waiting for that call from Sparky to crank up his bullpen ace.

That’s one reason they won the World Series. Warner came close. Whitmer pulled off a ring.

While Warner, an infielder, never made it to the majors as a player, Whitmer’s brief appearances for both the Angels and Toronto totaled seven RBI and a .229 average.

­Ever since Rod Anzai left as a Redlands High School track/cross country coach, truthfully, there’s been a downward spiral in the distance-running success from that campus.

Hate to say it, but Anzai had some significant naysayers. Which relates to the fact that he’s now long since departed.

Too bad.

Anzai coached 800, 1600 and 3200 runners on those Lady Terrier 2014 and 2015 CIF, Division 2 track & field championships. He made his mark as a cross country coach for years.

Throw Lew Farwell into that coaching mix. He had plenty of connection — still does, in fact — with the sensational hurdler-sprinter-jumper Juanita Webster.

Anzai, now the cross country at Irvine Portola High — new school with no senior class — had his team is ranked No. 5 in CIF Division 3.

He spent one season at Banning, taking second in the 2018, eight-team Desert Valley League, for a longtime weak program.

There was some significant success at Moreno Valley Vista del Lago.

Anzai-coached teams racked up plenty of success at Redlands. Tough, tough guy. Believes strongly in a disciplined approach. It could’ve led to his undoing.

Anzai, now 79, sold his Redlands home, moved to Laguna Beach, not that far of a jump from his current Irvine coaching digs.

So much more to all those stories — amazing, in fact. Good stuff. Questionable stuff. You name it.

* * *

Recent interviews conducted:

Redlands High’s Doug Haugh, playing his red-shirt sophomore season at Valparaiso in Indiana.

Former REV cornerback Isaiah Armstrong, a BYU graduate this past spring, playing his final collegiate season at Northwestern Louisiana.

Armstrong, incidentally, went up against LSU, then ranked No. 2, earlier this season for NWL.

Look for their stories in coming weeks. Still waiting for something with Arizona State’s Claire Kovensky, a one-time Citrus Valley volleyballer. Hasn’t called back.

Wonder if ASU will take on Auburn next season? We’ll check. It could be that Kovensky and soon-to-be-graduated Jackie Barrett, who is Auburn-bound, will cross paths in college. * * * ­Lance Evbuomwan, a significant piece in Redlands East Valley High’s football past, also played basketball for the Wildcats. It’s that background that’ll carry him into this season as Arrowhead Christian Academy’s boys’ hoops coach. ACA’s Russ DeKock, incidentally, was on the lookout for a tennis coach to replace the departed Ronnie Griffin.

* * *

Maybe it’s time, noted a significant Redlands-area coach, that the trio of Redlands-based public high school shouldn’t all be participating in the traditionally significant Citrus Belt League.

Nothing official, especially since the 2020-21 school year will enter into a newly aligned league that ushers in Beaumont High and ushers out Rialto Carter — with Citrus Valley, Cajon, Redlands, Yucaipa and REV rounding out the six-school grouping.

Nothing — repeat, nothing — has even been discussed yet, at least officially. Truth is, athletics could be taking a serious dive in talent over various sports.

Looking ahead, here’s a fair head start for a six-team CBL: San Gorgonio, Fontana Kaiser, Citrus Valley, Yucaipa, Cajon and, well, name that sixth school. Beaumont has the numbers.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila will be seeking a veteran catcher on the free-agent market this winter. He’s also looking to add a big bat — perhaps a first baseman or outfielder — to inject some life into a moribund offense.

But perhaps the most interesting tidbit he shared on Tuesday afternoon was about a position that the Tigers don’t plan to fill externally.

The Tigers plan to give Niko Goodrum every opportunity to win the starting shortstop job in spring training, Avila said during a break in the annual General Manager Meetings at the Omni Resort in suburban Phoenix.

“All the indicators seem to point to him being the guy that can play shortstop for us in 2020,” Avila said. “He’ll certainly receive that opportunity. He’s done a fantastic job as a super-utility guy and that’s really probably his best role. But in our situation right now, (shortstop) might turn out to be the best bet.”

What about 22-year-old prospect Willi Castro, who made his Major League debut last September?

“In a perfect world Willi Castro probably needs a bit more seasoning in Toledo,” Avila said. “In saying that, in spring training he’ll be allowed to compete and see what happens. But the player coming back that we feel good about that can possibly give us the most innings at shortstop is Niko Goodrum.”

Goodrum got an extended look at shortstop after Jordy Mercer was hurt and graded out well defensively. That audition may have convinced the Tigers to give the 27-year-old a longer look at one position rather than bouncing him around the diamond.

Signed as a minor-league free agent before the 2018 season, Goodrum has played in 243 games for the Tigers over the last two seasons, appearing at every position except pitcher and catcher.

Catcher Jake Rogers didn’t do as well in his late-season audition with the Tigers, and Avila confirmed that the Tigers will definitely sign a veteran catcher to pair with Grayson Greiner. Rogers is likely ticketed to Triple-A Toledo.

“I think last year we brought him up out of necessity,” Avila said of Rogers. “He got some experience, but it showed that he was a little overexposed and he probably needs a little more seasoning.”

Despite Rogers’ struggles at the plate and occasional defensive lapses, the Tigers haven’t soured on one of their top prospects.

“We have a high level of confidence that he’s going to become the player we think he can be. From a defensive perspective for sure. From an offensive perspective, I think that when a player struggles, it opens his mind and his eyes and he would be more open to making adjustments. I think we’re at that point and hopefully it works out for him and for us,” Avila said.

In addition to a catcher, the Tigers are seeking a “bat” to add some pop to a lineup that was the worst in baseball in 2019.

Will that be a first baseman, an outfielder, something else? Stay tuned, Avila said.

“Therein lies the issue,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’d just like to acquire a bat for sure.”

Brandon Dixon played first base for much of the year after Miguel Cabrera was consigned to DH duty and Jeimer Candelario moved to first after Dawel Lugo started playing every day at third base late in the year.

The Tigers have not given up on Candelario, Avila said, although it remains up in the air on which side of the infield he’ll play in 2020.

“Last year he obviously didn’t have a good year. We feel like he’s a good candidate to get back on track,” Avila said. “That could happen at first or at third. If we end up getting a first baseman, there might be more competition between him and Lugo at third base, which is good. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The loser of the battle could just go to the bench, Avila said. (Both players are out of options and would have to be exposed to waivers before being sent to the minor leagues).

“There will be competition. It’s time we give these guys some competition,” he said.

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Detroit — It looks different these days, the old neighborhood. The high rises from the Jeffries Housing Projects have made way for upscale townhomes, the old playground where Willie Horton hit some of his earliest prodigious home runs has been spruced up.

But some things never change.

“This is home,” Horton said Wednesday, the latest day in his honor. “If I go downtown five days a week, I stop by here four times.”

Horton, the Detroit legend and former Tigers great, was celebrated by the City of Detroit, which officially unveiled Willie Horton Drive at the intersection of Canfield Street and the John C. Lodge service drive.

Willie Horton Drive will be the secondary name of that portion of Canfield, the blue ceremonial street sign sitting atop the green primary one.

A steady rain fell as several speakers reflected on Horton’s life and legacy, but it couldn’t damper the spirit of the ceremony — beyond several rows of seating for dignitaries, a number of fans craned their necks to get a look at the hometown hero.

“It is truly fitting that we are able to recognize Willie right here in the neighborhood where he grew up,” said Christopher Ilitch, chairman and CEO of the Tigers whose late father Mike was very close to Horton. “It would’ve been wonderful if my Dad would’ve also been here today. He would’ve loved to celebrate this great honor.

“He was a big Willie Horton fan.”

And the feeling was plenty mutual.

“Your dad,” Horton said, turning to Christopher Ilitch, “I called him ‘The Boss,’ but he was more than a boss to me.”

Willie Horton, right, and wife Gloria check out the street sigh in his honor.
Willie Horton, right, and wife Gloria check out the street sigh in his honor. (Photo: Robin Buckson, Detroit News)

Ilitch and Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones, who sponsored the resolution to rename the street, spoke during the ceremony, which also was attended by Tigers general manager Al Avila, Tigers Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jack Morris, current Tigers left fielder Christin Stewart, Tigers play-by-play man Dan Dickerson, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, former mayor Ken Cockrel, City Council member Scott Benson and Wayne County commissioner Jewel Ware, among other dignitaries.

While Horton is most remembered on the field for those throw in Game 5 of the World Series — a strike to home plate to get the speedy Lou Brock and turn the momentum of the series with the St. Louis Cardinals — Duggan recalled his own favorite memory, a game at Tiger Stadium in the summer of 1976.

It was Detroit’s Mark Fidrych, smack dab in the thick of “Bird Mania,” against Texas’ Gaylord Perry, the future Hall-of-Famer. Horton didn’t start, but he pinch-hit in the ninth inning and hit a walk-off home run into the seats in left field. The Tigers won, 4-3, and the ballpark went nuts.

“And the fans stayed in the stands chanting over and over, ‘We want Willie,’ ’til he came back out of the dugout,” said Duggan, who was 17 years old that summer. “And nobody stood and cheered louder and longer than I did, cuz I thought as a fan in the center-field bleachers in 1976 that was gonna be the only way I could ever say thank you to Willie Horton for all he meant to me.

“And so it’s an enormous honor to be here on Canfield to be able to thank him in a much more permanent way.”

Horton grew up in the rough-and-tumble neighborhood, one of 21 children to parents who both were killed in a New Year’s Day car accident in 1965 — before the start of Horton’s third year with his hometown Tigers.

Horton credits a lot of people for his upbringing and success — from his days starring at Detroit Northwestern, to 15 seasons with the Tigers — including his parents, and before and after they died, Judge Damon Keith, who became a father figure. Keith provided Horton the confidence he could be a baseball star, when Horton grew up thinking he would become a firefighter.

Keith died last month.

“Mother Keith and Judge Keith became my parents,” said Horton, adding Judge Keith liked to tell him, “Keep your ears open, your mouth shut and you’ll learn something.”

Horton, now 76 and relatively healthy after some scares in recent years, played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball, almost all of them with the Tigers. He hit 325 career home runs and had 1,163 RBIs, and was a key member of the 1968 World Series champions. He also was a central figure off the field, famously hopping atop a police car, in his Tigers uniform, to plead for peace during the 1967 riots.

The Tigers traded him to the Texas Rangers in 1977, and he played briefly with them, the Cleveland Indians, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners before retiring after the 1980 season.

Christopher Ilitch chats with Willile Horton on Wednesday.
Christopher Ilitch chats with Willile Horton on Wednesday. (Photo: Robin Buckson, Detroit News)

It didn’t take him long to return home, and in 2000, Mike Ilitch made Horton’s No. 23 the only number to be retired by the franchise which didn’t belong to a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. There’s a statue, too. That’s how much Ilitch thought of Horton’s impact. In 2001, Horton joined the front office, and in 2002, he was named special assistant to the president, a role he continues today, alongside Al Kaline.

“Willie is truly my hero, and has been my hero for a long time,” Jones said. “Willie, I love you so much. This could not happen to a better person.”

Wednesday’s ceremony was just the latest in a long line of honors over the years for Horton, whose work in the community and with children is legendary in Detroit circles. He has his name on the softball diamonds at Detroit Northwestern, as well as on the field at the new Tiger Stadium, revitalized by the Detroit Police Athletic League. He was given the Spirit of Detroit Award in 2004 and The Order of Saint Maurice, the highest military honor given to civilians, in 2006.

Every Oct. 18, his birthday, is officially “Willie Horton Day” in the state of Michigan.

It’s been quite a life, to be sure, and one that got its start right there at the corner of Canfield and the Lodge, which may look different these days — but will always be home.

“It’s changed big time. I used to box right across the freeway,” Horton said, pointing across the Lodge, following the dedication ceremony, at which he was joined by wife Gloria, their children and several other family members. “I’m the youngest of 21 kids. I’ve got one sister left, and me. And I had an opportunity to tell each and every one of them before they left, how much they meant to Willie Horton and his life. They kept me out of bad traffic and drug free.

“I’m just proud to be here today.

“I never envisioned this.”

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The Twins will — and have been — slowing down C.J. Cron and pulling back on his number of at-bats as they try to let his sore thumb heal.

Cron’s thumb has been bothering him for months, despite two stints on the injured list.

“C.J.’s been dealing with this for a very long time,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’d like to say it’s getting better. It’s probably not getting better, and he kind of pretends like he’s doing OK and he mans up and he goes and plays and he continues to swing. I think we’re at a point where we might slow him down a bit.”

Cron first landed on the injured list on July 6 and missed just 10 days, but when he came back, he didn’t sound confident that he was fully healed. He landed on the IL again less than 10 days later and received a cortisone shot for the pain.

Although he came off the IL on Aug. 3 and has been playing since then, the results haven’t been as good as early in the season. Cron slashed .266/.326/.495 with 17 home runs and 54 runs batted in in the 78 games before his first stint on the IL. From Aug. 3 on, he is slashing .230/.293/.410 with six home runs and 21 RBIs.

Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey described the injury as a bone bruise and said the only recourse was rest and time.

“No one can play with what he’s playing with right now and swing the bat with the intensity that you need to swing the bat with to play at this level,” Baldelli said. “I think we’re still going to see him out there at times, but I think pulling him back a little bit I think makes sense.”

The Twins have been pulling back on his starts already, though he has entered a couple of games in the late innings recently. Cron was not in the starting lineup for Monday’s game against the White Sox.

“There’s not really a playbook for this one. It’s kind of a unique situation. He’s going to find himself into games. He’s going to go out there. We could turn to him potentially for an at-bat,” Baldelli said. “We could turn to him for some defensive play. We could do some different things with him. As far as regular at-bats in the starting lineup, they might be fewer.”

GONZALEZ RETURNS

The Twins did get good news on the injury front, as Marwin Gonzalez returned to the lineup for the first time since Aug. 27 in Chicago, when he injured his oblique/abdomen.

“It was frustrating to be out for this long,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to be back a little sooner than this, but everything is done for my own good. I let it heal and, obviously, I’m going to be kind of scared the first couple games, but I feel good.”

Gonzalez started at first base Monday night as Cron rested. He will also be called upon in the outfield as Max Kepler deals with a lingering injury. Gonzalez’s return is especially important to the Twins as Ehire Adrianza, another option to play multiple positions, is dealing with an oblique strain.

“When you add him back into the fold, you’re not adding a player,” Baldelli said. “You’re not adding a first baseman. You’re adding a first baseman and a second baseman and a third baseman and an outfielder and a guy, if he’s not starting, you can hit him for a number of different people in a number of different spots. He just gives you a ton to work with, and it’s very helpful.”

BRIEFLY

Adrianza said he had started lifting weights and doing some “upper body stuff and some core” for the first time since suffering the strain on Thursday and felt good. He remains optimistic that he could return before the season ends.

Kepler (shoulder) was again out of the lineup after sitting Sunday. He did play in Saturday’s doubleheader. “We’re going to get him looked at again, and it’s something that we want to find a way to wipe out,” Baldelli said.

The Tigers claimed pitcher Marcos Diplan after the Twins had designated him for assignment over the weekend. Diplan, who was at Double-A this season, was acquired for cash by the Twins on July 31.

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Hall of a class?

Hall, yes!

Shortstop Alan Trammell and right-handed pitcher Jack Morris will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday, marking the first time two players have entered the Hall as Detroit Tigers in the same year. Trammell and Morris were etched into Tigers lore when they helped Detroit win the 1984 World Series, but it wasn’t until December that the Hall’s Modern Baseball Era Committee finally selected them for induction.

No harm. Trammell and Morris will become the 12th and 13th players inducted as Tigers and the first since Hal Newhouser in 1992. Here’s a look at the rest of the franchise’s inductees, along with other ex-Tigers players and coaches inducted with other teams:

Ty Cobb

Inducted: 1936 (inducted by Baseball Writers Association of America).

Position: Center field

Years with Detroit: 1905-1926

Years with other teams: Philadelphia A’s 1927-1928

Career stats: .366 average, 4,189 hits, 897 stolen bases, 3,034 games

Overview: The “Georgia Peach” was the arguably the greatest player in baseball history. In the first year of balloting for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cobb received the most votes of the first five inductees (including Babe Ruth).

Cobb won nine consecutive AL batting titles from 1907 to 1915, three more in his career, and hit .320 or better for 22 consecutive seasons, including over .400 three times. When he retired, he held 43 regular-season career records.

Mickey Cochrane

Inducted: 1947 (BBWAA)

Position: Catcher

Years with Detroit: 1934-37

Years with other teams: Philadelphia A’s 1925-1933

Career stats: .320 average, 1,652 hits, 119 home runs, 1,482 games

Overview: Known as “Black Mike” for his intense competitiveness, Cochrane played nine seasons with Philadelphia, leading the A’s to three pennants and two world championships, before he was sold to Detroit for $100,000 in 1934. As player/manager he led the Tigers to the AL pennant in his first two seasons and their first world championship in 1935. Fittingly, he scored the winning run to win the Series on Goose Goslin’s walk off single in Game 6. Cochrane, the AL MVP winner in ’28 and ’34, sadly had his career end at age 34 when in 1937 he was beaned at Yankee Stadium.

Sam Crawford

Inducted: 1957 (Veterans Committee)

Position: Right field

Years with Detroit: 1903-1917

Years with other teams: Cincinnati 1899-1902

Career stats: .309 avg., 2,961 hits, 97 HRs, 309 triples, 2,517 games

Overview: Although he played in the shadow of Ty Cobb, “Wahoo Sam” helped lead the Tigers to three consecutive AL pennants in 1907-09 in the dead ball era. Especially known for legging out triples, Crawford led the league in three baggers six times, home runs twice, runs batted in three times, and once each in runs and doubles. He still holds the major league mark for career triples with 309, 14 more than Cobb.

Charlie Gehringer

Inducted: 1949 (BBWAA*)

Position: Second base

Years (all with Detroit): 1924-1942

Stats: .320 avg., 2,839 hits, 184 HRs, 574 doubles, .976 fielding percentage, 2,323 games

Overview: Considered one of the greatest second basemen for fielding and hitting, “The Mechanical Man” helped lead the Tigers to three pennants (1934-35, 1940) and the 1935 World Championship when he hit .375 in the Series. Gehringer led all AL second baseman in fielding percentage and assists seven times, had seven seasons with more than 200 hits and played every inning of the first six All-Star games (’33-’38) as the starting second baseman for the AL while hitting .500. In 1937 he was the AL batting champion (.371) and was named the AL’s MVP.

*Inducted after a run-off vote, which occurs when no player on the initial ballot gets the requisite 75 percent of votes.

Hank Greenberg

Inducted: 1956 (BBWAA)

Position: First base

Years with Detroit: 1930, 1933-41, 1945-46

Years with other teams: Pittsburgh 1947

Career stats: .313 avg., 1,628 hits, 331 HRs, 1,274 RBIs, 1,394 games

Overview: As one of greatest sluggers of his era while leading Detroit to four pennants (1934-35, 1940, 1945) and two world championships (1935, 1945), “Hammerin’ Hank” led the AL in home runs three times, RBIs four times, and nearly broke Babe Ruth’s season home run record of 60 in 1938 when he hit 58. The five-time All Star and two-time AL MVP winner (1935, 1940) lost four years of his career while serving in WWII. Three months after returning to the Tigers, Greenberg’s signature moment occurred when on the last day of the 1945 season he hit a grand slam to win the pennant.

Harry Heilmann

Inducted: 1952 (BBWAA)

Position: Right field

Years with Detroit: 1914, 1916-29

Years with other teams: Cincinnati 1930, 1932

Career stats: .342 avg., 2,660 hits, 183 HRs, 1,543 RBIs, 2,147 games

Overview: Next to teammate Ty Cobb, “Slug” was the Tigers’ greatest hitter. Heilmann is one of only six AL players in history to win four or more batting titles and was the last Detroit player to hit over .400 (.403 in 1923). He has the highest lifetime batting average in AL history for a right-handed hitter (.342) and is only surpassed by Rogers Hornsby and Ed Delahanty among right-handed hitters in all of baseball. During his peak from 1921 to 1927, Heilmann compiled a .380 batting average and averaged 116 RBIs. He was also more than a baseball hero. On July 25, 1916, he saved a woman from drowning in the Detroit River.

Al Kaline

Inducted: 1980 (BBWAA)

Position: Right field

Years (all with Detroit): 1953-74

Stats: .297 avg., 399 HRs, 3,007 hits, 2,834 games

Overview: One of the best right fielders in baseball history, the 18-time All Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner was the greatest Tiger player in the last half of the 20th century. At age 20 in 1955, Kaline became the youngest player in AL history to win a batting title with a .340 average. The key moment of his career occurred in Game 5 of the 1968 World Series when, in storybook fashion, his clutch two-run single in the bottom of the seventh was the game-winning hit that extended the Series. In the Fall Classic he shined, batting .379 with two homers and eight RBIs.

George Kell

Inducted: 1983 (Veterans)

Position: Third base

Years with Detroit: 1946-52

Years with other teams: Philadelphia A’s 1943-46, Boston Red Sox 1952-54, Chicago White Sox 1954-56, Baltimore 1956-57

Career stats: .306 avg.; 2,054 hits, 1,795 games

Overview: Acquired in May of 1946 from the Philadelphia A’s for Barney McCosky, the 10-time All Star won the 1949 batting title (.343) on the last day of the season, beating out Boston’s Ted Williams by a few decimal points, and holds the record for the fewest strikeouts by a batting champion with 13. He twice led the AL in hits, in 1950 (218) and 1951 (191). For 37 seasons Kell was a popular Tiger broadcaster.

Heinie Manush

Inducted: 1964 (Veterans)

Position: Left field

Years with Detroit: 1923-27

Years with other teams: St. Louis Browns 1928-30, Washington Senators 1930-35, Boston Red Sox 1936, Brooklyn Dodgers 1937-38; Pittsburgh 1938-39

Career stats: .330 avg., 2,524 hits, 110 HRs, 2,008 games

Overview: In his rookie season with Detroit, Manush batted .334, and from 1923-1927 was a part of one of the greatest outfields in baseball history playing alongside fellow Hall of Famers Harry Heilmann and Ty Cobb. Manush won the 1926 batting title on the last day of the season by going 6 for 9 in a doubleheader to beat out the Yankees’ Babe Ruth and Tiger teammates Heilmann and Bob “Fats” Fothergill.

Jack Morris

Inducted: 2018 (Veterans)

Position: Pitcher

Years with Detroit: 1977-90

Years with other teams: Minnesota 1991, Toronto 1992-93, Cleveland 1994

Career stats: 254-186 record, 3.90 ERA, 2,478 strikeouts, 175 complete games, 549 games

Overview: The five-time All-Star and four-time World Champion (Detroit 1984; Minnesota 1991; Toronto 1992 and 1993) was the pitching ace for the Tigers for 12 seasons. His no-hitter on national television in April 1984 was part of the team’s amazing 35-5 start on the way to the world championship. He is best known for arguably the greatest single-game World Series pitching performance — Game 7 in 1991. Morris beat the Braves (who started Hall of Famer John Smoltz), 1-0, allowing seven hits in a 10-inning, complete-game performance and was named the Series MVP.

Hal Newhouser

Inducted: 1992 (Veterans)

Position: Pitcher

Years with Detroit: 1939-53

Years with other teams: Cleveland 1954-55

Career stats: 207-150 record, 3.06 ERA, 1,796 strikeouts, 212 complete games, 2,993 innings pitched

Overview: The teenage phenom from the Detroit sandlots was one of the most dominant pitchers in the major leagues during the 1940s. The seven-time All Star won back-to-back AL MVP awards in 1944 and 1945, leading the Tigers to a world championship in 1945 while winning the pitching triple crown by leading the league in victories (25), ERA (1.81) and strikeouts (212). In the World Series, “Prince Hal” won complete-game victories in Games 5 and 7.

Alan Trammell

Inducted: 2018 (Veterans)

Position: Shortstop

Years (all with Detroit): 1977-96

Career stats: .285 average, 2,365 hits, 185 HRs, 2,293 games

Overview: The six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and the recipient of three Silver Slugger awards will forever be linked with second baseman Lou Whitaker as the duo formed the longest continuous double play combination in baseball history (19 years). Trammell earned the 1984 World Series MVP award after batting .450 with six RBIs, including two homers in Game 4, as the Tigers captured their fourth world championship. His best season was in 1987 when he helped Detroit to a division title, nearly winning the AL MVP award after hitting .343 with 28 homers and 105 RBIs.

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ST. PETERSBURG — Ji-Man Choi raised his arms into the air as he saw his game-winning hit clear the infield.

There was good reason to celebrate after the Tampa Bay Rays kept themselves in the AL’s second wild-card spot and avoided a series loss to the woeful Detroit Tigers.

Choi’s two-run single in the bottom of the ninth completed a rally from a late three-run deficit and gave the Rays a 5-4 victory on Sunday.

“Pretty exciting moment,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “His teammates might have been halfway out there before the second run even came across.”

The Rays trailed 4-1 after seven before coming back with two in the eighth and then the winning hit in the ninth.

Travis d’Arnaud reached to open the ninth against Joe Jimenez (3-7) on shortstop Gordon Beckham’s throwing error and went to second when Willy Adames walked.

The Rays loaded the bases on Mike Brosseau’s one-out infield single before Choi singled to center.

“We kept on going and never gave up,” Choi said through a translator. “We were able to bring back the win.”

Tampa Bay had been hitless in 17 at-bats with the bases loaded since July 26.

Tommy Pham hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Buck Farmer that pulled the Rays within 4-3.

“Good teams find a way to win, and that’s exactly what we did,” Pham said.

Tampa Bay pitchers set a three-game series team record by recording 49 strikeouts, including 12 on Sunday.

Houston holds the major league record of 52, coming against Baltimore May 24-26, 2016.

The Rays lost 2-0 Friday night before winning 1-0 in 13 innings on Brosseau’s single Saturday.

“We competed with a team that’s in a playoff race,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It was in our hands, in our grip, we just lost it.”

Matthew Boyd struck out nine over seven strong innings and Harold Castro homered and had three RBIs for the Tigers, who have a major league-worst 37-84 record.

Boyd allowed one run, two hits and two walks. The lefty has 201 strikeouts in 153 innings.

“It was a big performance by him,” Gardenhire said.

Boyd departed the ballpark before the game ended for the birth of his child.

Castro hit a two-run shot in the first and had a sacrifice fly during a two-run seventh.

Victor Reyes got the Tigers’ first walk of the series leading off the first against Trevor Richards and scored on Castro’s homer.

Detroit finished with three walks, with two coming in the ninth off Jose Alvarado (1-5).

After Reyes had an RBI double, Castro’s sac fly in the seventh put the Tigers ahead 4-1.

Richards allowed two runs, eight hits and struck out six over 3 1/3 innings in his Tampa Bay debut. The right-hander, acquired from Miami on July 31, went 3-12 for the Marlins in 23 games, including 20 starts.

RARE COMPANY

Boyd joined Mickey Lolich (seven times) and Hal Newhouser (twice) as the only Tigers left-handers with 200 or more strikeouts in a season.

GETTING A BREAK

Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, hitless in nine at-bats with seven strikeouts in the first two games of the series, got the day off.

MOVING AROUND THE DIAMOND

d’Arnaud made his 15th start at first base and also took grounders at third base before the game. He has started 39 times behind the plate.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Tigers: OF Christin Stewart (concussion), C Grayson Greiner (lower back strain) and 1B Jeimer Candelario (sprained left thumb) were all in the Triple-A Toledo lineup for the second consecutive day.

Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow, who went 6-1 before being sidelined by a right forearm strain in mid-May, will have his first bullpen session Monday. … OF Avisail Garcia (right oblique strain) could be back in the next seven to 10 days.

UP NEXT

Tigers: RHP Edwin Jackson (3-5), a 17-year veteran, looks to win his third consecutive start since joining Detroit on Monday night at Houston. The AL West-leading Astros will counter with LHP Wade Miley (11-4).

Rays: LHP Brendan McKay (2-2) will go against Seattle LHP Marco Gonzalez (12-10) on Monday night.

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It’s understandable if you have never heard of Charlie Maxwell. A terrific player for the Detroit Tigers in the 1950s and ’60s, Maxwell’s peak was fairly short. This was largely due to circumstance, though. Maxwell had the misfortune of being stuck behind some of the greatest players of his day, and all-time. With the Boston Red Sox, Maxwell rode the bench as veterans Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio put up MVP-caliber numbers. At the end of his career, Maxwell was supplanted by Tigers legends Al Kaline and Rocky Colavito. Even during his prime, Maxwell had to fend off Harvey Kuenn and Larry Doby for playing time.

He did, though. Maxwell was a rarity as a ballplayer: a power-hitter who rarely struck out. He fanned just 432 times in 3150 plate appearances in a Tigers uniform, and walked 394 times. He hit 133 home runs and drove in 435 RBI. His 19.2 fWAR rank 28th among position players in Tigers history, wedged between modern fan favorites Curtis Granderson and Carlos Guillen.

Year PA HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR
1950* 9 0 0 0 .000 .111 .000 .082 -72 -0.2
1951* 89 3 12 0 .188 .270 .313 .276 49 -0.4
1952* 18 0 0 0 .067 .222 .133 .194 2 -0.2
1954* 117 0 5 3 .250 .328 .308 .302 70 -0.3
1955** 126 7 18 0 .257 .315 .522 .366 120 1.0
1956 592 28 87 1 .326 .414 .534 .417 148 5.8
1957 580 24 82 3 .276 .377 .482 .378 132 4.9
1958 466 13 65 6 .272 .369 .426 .354 117 2.2
1959 611 31 95 0 .251 .357 .461 .363 122 3.1
1960 549 24 81 5 .237 .325 .440 .338 101 1.8
1961 153 5 18 0 .229 .333 .405 .327 92 0.4
1962*** 319 10 52 0 .271 .365 .440 .356 117 1.3
1963*** 165 3 17 0 .231 .370 .362 .330 111 0.4
1964*** 2 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 0.0
Career 3796 148 532 18 .264 .360 .451 .360 117 19.9
*Played for the Boston Red Sox from 1950 to 1955.
**Played for the Baltimore Orioles from April 1955 to May 1955.
***Played for the Chicago White Sox from June 1962 to 1964.

Charles Richard Maxwell was born on April 8th, 1927 in Lawton, Michigan. A basketball and baseball star in high school, Charlie went on to pitch for Western Michigan University — a baseball powerhouse at the time — in 1945. He was drafted into the army at the tail end of World War II and served for two years. Following his military service, Maxwell signed with the Boston Red Sox. He spent three years in the minors, where he hit .321 with 41 home runs in just under 900 at-bats at Class B Roanoke.

Maxwell made his MLB debut in 1950, but did not impress. He only played in three games towards the end of the season and did not record a hit in nine plate appearances. However, he hit .320 with 25 home runs for the Birmingham Barons that year, earning him more playing time with the Red Sox in 1951. It did not go well, as Maxwell hit just .188/.270/.313 in 89 plate appearances.

With Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio manning two of Boston’s three outfield spots, there were not many spare at-bats to go around, and Maxwell was the low man on the totem pole. Maxwell had just 233 plate appearances for the Red Sox from 1950 to 1954 (he did not even appear for the Red Sox in 1953), and hit a disappointing .203/.289/.285 in the sparse playing time. He showed promise in the minor leagues with an .893 OPS in over 1400 plate appearances from 1951 to 1953.

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Maxwell finally got his break in 1955. The Red Sox sold him to the Baltimore Orioles before the season, who waived him after just four games. Maxwell’s hometown Tigers came calling, purchasing his contract in early May. He continued to split plate appearances, but the 28-year-old lefty hit .266/.325/.541 in 122 plate appearances. He finally got a full-time starting job in 1956 and put together an All-Star season opposite right fielder Al Kaline, hitting .326/.414/.534 with 28 home runs and 87 RBI in 592 plate appearances.

He finished a distant 23rd in the MVP voting (Kaline was third) in 1956, but Charlie quickly became a fan favorite. He earned the nickname “Paw Paw” after he and his wife, Ann, built a home in Paw Paw, Michigan. Maxwell’s size also probably played a role in his popularity. While Kaline was well-built at six-foot-one and 175 pounds, Maxwell, was generously listed at five feet, 11 inches tall. Maxwell had surprising power for his size, though. He led the Tigers in home runs on three separate occasions, and his 24 home runs in 1960 were second to Rocky Colavito’s 35 dingers.

Maxwell made a second All-Star team in 1957, hitting .276/.377/.482 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI. He did not start in either of his career All-Star appearances, and singled in his only plate appearance. His numbers dipped in 1958, but he bounced back with a career-high 31 home runs and 95 RBI in 1959. Maxwell hit four home runs in four consecutive plate appearances during a doubleheader on May 3rd, a pair of wins over the New York Yankees. Maxwell also walked and hit an RBI single. He drove in eight of the 12 runs the Tigers scored that day. Maxwell’s 31 home runs were a Tigers record for a left-handed hitter at the time, though it would be broken by Norm Cash two years later.

The 1960 season would be Maxwell’s last as a full-time player. He hit .237/.325/.440 with 24 home runs and 81 RBI in 549 plate appearances. His usual contact skills and plate discipline remained, but the aging Maxwell seemed to have lost a step. The Tigers traded for center fielder Billy Bruton prior to the 1961 season, leaving Maxwell to serve in a bench role. As he did in a similar role with the Red Sox earlier in his career, Maxwell struggled. He hit just .229 with a .738 OPS in 153 plate appearances. The team didn’t lose a step and won 101 games, a franchise record at the time.

Maxwell turned 35 as the 1962 season opened, and his days with the Tigers were all but over. Al Kaline and Rocky Colavito were mainstays in the Tigers’ outfield at that point, and Bruton hit well enough to support his superior defense in center field. Maxwell only saw 77 plate appearances before he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in late July, but he roared back with nine home runs and an .889 OPS for the Sox down the stretch.

It didn’t last, though. Maxwell hit .231 with a .731 OPS in 165 plate appearances the next season, and appeared to grow tired of the long travel involved in the MLB season. This was the reason he cited for his decision to retire shortly after the 1964 season began. He enjoyed a quiet retirement with his family in Paw Paw (naturally) and was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

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The good news for the Tigers is that it would be very hard for things to get worse. In 2019, they lost 114 games for a .292 winning percentage, and only once before in franchise history have they lost more. In 2003, they lost 119 games at a .265 win-loss clip.

After that season, they jettisoned nearly everything that wasn’t bolted down, and they managed to reach the World Series by 2006; perhaps the recipe for the modern-day Tigers should be the same.

From 2003 to 2006, they kept only Brandon Inge and Craig Monroe from their starting lineup on offense, and only Jeremy Bonderman from their rotation. Beyond those three, the players who had the bulk of the playing time changed over almost entirely.

Sixteen years later, the Tigers front office is in a position again where it has to examine who is worth keeping.

What’s on tap this off-season? Check out Forbes’ full MLB off-season preview, with best-case scenarios and worst-case scenarios for all 30 teams.

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Off-Season Priorities
Where to start? At the trade deadline, Detroit took the first step toward rolling over its roster by trading Nicholas Castellanos to the Cubs, but the return they got (minor league pitchers Alex Lange and Paul Richan) is still in question. Lange is a 2017 first-rounder and he pitched well in Double-A in 2019, but he is still a ways off from making an impact on the Tigers pitching staff, and Richan was a 2018 compensatory pick who is still in Single-A.

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Repairing this roster will have to be a multi-year process, and a lot of it will hinge on the development of players like Christin Stewart and Jake Rogers on offense and Casey Mize and Matt Manning on the mound.

The Tigers are a bit hamstrung financially by money still owed to Miguel Cabrera, who is due at least $30 million per year through 2023, but overall the team payroll is low enough going into 2020 that they could be active in free agency if they chose.

Top Priority: Make room for the kids to play and see what you have. Stewart got 416 plate appearances last year and showed flashes of what’s possible. Get him in the lineup every day in 2020. Mize and Manning were brilliant in Double-A in 2019; they’re the future of Detroit’s pitching staff.

Decision Time
The Tigers will have a lot of natural roster changeover this winter. Tyson Ross, Jordy Mercer, Matt Moore, Gordon Beckham, Edwin Jackson, Blaine Hardy, John Hicks, and Daniel Stumpf are all headed to free agency.

Along with that group, Joe Jimenez, Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum, and Spencer Turnbull are entering pre-arbitration in 2020.

There are also a few players left who are worth dangling in the trade market. Matthew Boyd drew interest at the deadline, but he tailed off in the second half of the season, so his value isn’t what it was a few months ago. Daniel Norris is due an estimated $2.9 million in 2020, according to Roster Resource, and then he is due to enter arbitration the following year. Norris turns 27 next April and coming off of his strongest season so far.

Likeliest To Leave: No one. The Tigers traded Castellanos and closer Shane Greene on July 31, and if they were going to deal someone like Boyd, it likely would have happened at the same time as the others.

Hot Stove Agenda
A rotation built around Boyd and Norris can do decently, but after that, the Tigers obviously need a lot of help. The 2019 staff ranked 20th in fWAR as a group, with Boyd, Norris, and Spencer Turnbull as the top contributors. They could supplement this group by going big and pursuing Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg (if he opts out) this winter, but more realistically, they could do well by going a tier below those two and go after Zack Wheeler or Jake Odorizzi. Or, given their history trading with the Cubs, Jose Quintana could be lured away. He has a $11.5 club option for 2020.

The far greater need is on offense, however. The Tigers were dead last in fWAR at -2.6 in 2019, almost six wins above replacement worse than the next lowest team, the Marlins. Despite being traded away in July, Castellanos had the third-highest fWAR on the team. This group needs help.

Top Target: A bat. Several bats. The way the market stands now, Marcell Ozuna is the best option in the outfield, but the biggest splash is at third base in Anthony Rendon. He will easily be the most highly sought-after bat in free agency, but if the Tigers are serious about moving forward, they need to be in on him.

Best-Case Scenario
The past repeats itself, and the 2019 Tigers follow the path of the 2003 group. Back then, they improved by almost 30 wins from 2003 to 2004, and then took the huge step forward in 2006. At the beginning of this decade, they made four consecutive trips to the postseason, including another World Series berth in 2012. Perhaps the beginning of the 2020s will turn out similarly.

Worst-Case Scenario
The Tigers are in bad shape, and far behind not just in the standings but also in their approach to analytics and player development. The bright future possible in players like Stewart, Mize and Manning fizzles if Detroit doesn’t catch up in this regard.

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As the Detroit Tigers offseason kicks off, take a look at who they could bring in for the 2020 season.
Last season the Detroit Tigers offseason moves were minimal but did not offer much for them due to injuries over the year.

Some of the names of players who were signed last year but will not be returning are Jordy Mercer, Tyson Ross, and Matt Moore. Josh Harrison was also signed, he was then injured and designated for assignment by the team. The Tigers need to make sure that this year’s additions will pan out, even as “rentals” on a rebuilding team.

The rentals are simply filling gaps with players in the minor leagues work their way into the big leagues. Sadly, the cold hard truth is that the Tigers will not sign Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, who are two of the biggest names on the free-agent market. With the Tigers being roughly two to three years out from the competition, this will be another painful offseason, but who should they target?

The way things stand now, the Tigers will need to sign someone to play first base since Miguel Cabrera has essentially assumed the role of Designated Hitter. With catchers, Jake Rogers and Grayson Greiner to be splitting time with this year’s version of Bobby Wilson, expect a veteran catcher signing. To round out the infield, they will most likely bring in at least one middle infielder who can play second base and shortstop.

On the rubber, the Tigers have Michael Fulmer making his return to the rotation this season, and Tyler Alexander currently slated for that fifth spot. It should not shock anyone for the Tigers to go out and sign two starting pitchers, one proven veteran (like Tyson Ross last year) and one who’s a gamble (like Matt Moore last year).

The bullpen suffered some hits when the Tigers outrighted players to kick off the offseason; this will be replenished by minor league signings or low-value big-league signings. In other words, do not expect the Tigers to be making a run at someone like Dellin Betances or Collin McHugh.

There are plenty of names on the market, with starting pitching being the most talent-filled over relievers, which thin out very fast. Something to note, specialists like Daniel Stumpf have decreased tenfold in value since baseball implemented the three batter minimum rule for the upcoming 2020 season.

The value in specialists has been reduced a bit because of this, but nonetheless, the starting pitching market is primed for the biggest signings. The following recommendations on who the Tigers should target only mention a few names, this Free Agent Tracker offers a better look at which players are available at every position besides the players mentioned beyond this point.

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Joe Vavra’s job has already begun.

Earlier this month, Vavra — the Detroit Tigers’ new hitting coach — traveled to the Dominican Republic to meet with a few of the team’s young hitters near the organization’s academy in the country: infielder Jeimer Candelario, shortstop Willi Castro and third baseman Dawel Lugo.

“We spent a lot of time,” Vavra said. “I know those guys, but I spent more time getting to know them on the offensive side, seeing how much they know about themselves and analytics and everything that goes with it.”

Vavra, who served as Tigers quality control coach the past two seasons, was moved to a familiar role for 2020: He spent six seasons as Twins hitting coach from 2006-12, working with a number of American League All-Star players.

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But perhaps Vavra’s trip to the Dominican Republic was more than just an information-gathering session.

“Trying to send a message,” Vavra said. “That’s the intent — to get a jump start. More or less, the clock is ticking. The opportunity is in front of those guys and I don’t know how much you can accelerate the program, but just getting to know who they are, what they’re capable of and what they took out of last season.

“It’s still fresh enough, so they got time this winter to work on stuff that’s fresh and maybe point them in the direction of what we know in the analytical side is some of the things that maybe they’re not used to trying to catch up on.”

Vavra is tasked with turning around an offense that struck out more than any team in major league history in 2019; an overwhelmingly inexperienced, impatient, powerless offense that figures to be returning a similar bunch.

Detroit Tigers quality control coach Joe Vavra (52) poses for a headshot on media day at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Detroit Tigers quality control coach Joe Vavra (52) poses for a headshot on media day at Joker Marchant Stadium. (Photo: Reinhold Matay, Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Recently, Vavra spoke to the Free Press about his hitting philosophies and how he hopes to impact the Tigers’ young hitters in 2020:

On the primary point he will hammer home to Tigers’ hitters: “This is going to be all about you. This is your deal, but you have to know what you’re up against and who you’re up against on a daily basis, and you have to come up with plans. And your plans have to be solid, because you’re going to be called out in front of your teammates every night on your plan. So, if you’re not prepared to have your plan or understand what a plan is, that’s what we’re here for, to get you through that, so you can actually understand what you’re planning. And that’s not an easy task.”

What exactly is the plan he hopes for hitters to adapt? “Player by player. Everybody’s different. Everybody’s from all different aspects, mentally, physically, emotionally and they’re challenged in different ways by the pitcher. …

Detroit Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo (18) hits a RBI double during the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019.
Detroit Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo (18) hits a RBI double during the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (Photo: Raj Mehta, USA TODAY Sports)

“If you commit to a plan, you still have to understand what two strikes are about, you can sell out for the entire at-bat, which so many guys do, on one particular pitch or one location, that so many people do, I don’t think it gives them a very good foundation because they’re so young. So I’m still going to try to get them a little more fundamentally sound.”

On his main goal: “Our goal is to try to get them to use more of the center part of the plate and there’s some things, per guy, per individual that we’re going to have to do and understand themselves and it’s case by case, but everybody’s going to have to come up with a solid plan on a daily basis and they’re going to have to give us answers and do their homework on what they’re up against.”

Joe Vavra, the Detroit Tigers’ quality control coach, works on finalizing the team’s spring training workout plans on Wednesday.
Joe Vavra, the Detroit Tigers’ quality control coach, works on finalizing the team’s spring training workout plans on Wednesday. (Photo: Anthony Fenech/Detroit Free Press)

How important is hitting the fastball? “That’s my philosophy, you can’t get off the fastball. You just can’t get off the fastball. You have to be able to hit the fastball, good plus fastballs. A lot of people say hunting heaters. I had Jim Thome. It was about hunting heaters. Don’t get off the fastball, so yeah, never get off the fastball. You get guys guessing too much. We had a lot of guys guessing because from pitch to pitch, their plans would change and young guys are always known to get a fastball inside or to get something inside and it gets them excited and once you get them excited inside, you don’t think you can get to a (fastball) inside and also, they go something soft away so now you’re on the other side of the plate, you lose control and balance of the strike zone real quick. That’s why you just stay on the fastball, look for it down the middle.”

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On the intersection between analytics and coaching, and how it has changed the modern-day hitter: It’s even before that. We’re just a product of society, but that’s what’s happening in the game, your amateur, junior level, high school, college guys, they’re all going to be feeding off it and teaching it so it’s kind of what we are. But if you understand from Ted Williams, I mean, I believe in launch angle, I’ve always taught it but I also believe in how you have to understand to get on the plane of the ball and how to get plate coverage, you have to know where your outside corner is, you have to pretty much know the parameters of the strike zone to have a good solid base, you know what you can handle, what you can’t, first and foremost, before you can think about launch angle.”

What do you look for at batting practice? “I just think (players) have to know their strike zone, where the points of contact are, out in front of the plate, whether it be going the opposite way or pulling the ball, they have to learn how to get the bat on the ball. I don’t want any foul balls in BP. I don’t want to see them. I want to go right-center field gap to left-center field gap. … In BP, it’s about slow reps, slow speeds and you’re not getting your head out, you’re never going to be able to get that thing in the game. I’m all about spins off the bat. I want true spins coming off the bat. I don’t want side spins or angle spins, I want them to learn how to get the bat head out in the right way.”