January 12th, 2012

Tigers winter caravan schedule is out

I wrote a story on the upcoming Tigers winter caravan yesterday. The schedule is now officially out. Here’s a list of the scheduled events that are open to the public:

Thursday, January 19

  • Palladium 12 Theatre, downtown Birmingham, 3-5 pm: Tigers help celebrate the theatre’s 10th anniversary with a fan rally, billed as the largest fan event on the caravan. Admission is free. Doors open at 3pm, with the player portion of the program starting at 4.
  • Hockeytown Authentics, Troy, 5-6pm: Fans will have the chance to take a photo with two Tigers players in exchange for a donation of two nonperishable food items to the Salvation Army.

Friday, January 20

  • The Detroit Shoppe at Somerset Collection, Troy, 1-1:45pm: Tigers players will appear to play Tigers trivia with fans. In addition, the customer who spends the most at the store between 10am and 1pm will win a special grand prize. All proceeds from purchases at the store that day will benefit the Detroit Tigers Foundation.
  • Meijer of Auburn Hills, 1:05-1:40pm: Tigers players and broadcasters will serve as celebrity crew members by working the deli counter, in the bakery or bagging groceries at the checkout lanes. Jose Valverde, Austin Jackson and Doug Fister are expected to attend.
  • North American International Auto Show, Cobo Center, 3:30-4:30pm: Tigers players will take part in a fan rally and parade as well as a question-and-answer session.

Tickets are available to a couple other Tigers-related events next week:

  • Tigers manager Jim Leyland, pitching coach Jeff Jones, hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and third-base coach Gene Lamont will join superutilityman Don Kelly, top prospect Jacob Turner, and swing pitcher Duane Below for the annual Toledo Mud Hens Fandeomium event at Fifth Third Field on Wednesday night. Tickets are $10 and are available at mudhens.com.
  •  Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski will return to his alma mater, Western Michigan University, to give the keynote address at a luncheon at the Bernhard Student Center on Friday, Jan. 20 from noon to 1:30. A selection of Tigers players and coaches will be joining. Tickets cost $10 and are available by phone at 269-387-8746.

Verlander delivers laughs on Conan

Justin Verlander has talked many times about his pregame routine of listening to music blaring through his headphones as he enters a ballpark on days he starts. He saved the story about his pre-gameday meal for the late-night talk show circuit.

When host Conan O’Brien asked Verlander about his pregame rituals during Wednesday night’s show, Verlander talked about his meals the night before he starts.

“The night before, as you can tell by my amazing physique, I eat Taco Bell,” Verlander said. “Every night.”

“You’re welcome, Taco Bell,” Verlander said as he turned to the camera.

(Link is here, since I can’t seem to embed the video on my blog. Also, according to Front Row Analytics and CNBC’s Darren Rovell on Twitter, that Verlander plug was worth $133,000. You’re welcome, indeed, Taco Bell.)

It was a rare relief appearance for Verlander, the Tigers ace who won American League MVP honors to go with the AL Cy Young award. But it was also a rare venue for him to try his hand at comedy. He retold the story of his hotfoot prank on teammate Don Kelly, which they replayed.

“The cup of water is really not enough if things get out of hand,” O’Brien joked.

While Verlander usually begins his mound outings by throwing his fastball at less than full velocity, he came to the set firing as soon as he sat down. He told O’Brien about seeing the giant orange Conan Blimp advertising his show flying over Yankee Stadium during their American League Division Series last fall.

“Here we are in the postseason in New York,” Verlander begins, “and you’ve got your blimp flying up there. It’s supposed to be a night game, and this thing looks like the sun. It’s huge!

“That’s what I had to stare at the whole game, because I’m a pitcher, so when I’m not pitching, I just sit around in the dugout and look around, because we don’t really do much. So every time I look up, I see this thing, and I can’t help it. I’m envisioning your face on the side of this blimp, and it’s just like haunting me the whole series.”

The show was taped in Los Angeles, where Verlander has been spending the week doing a shoot for the upcoming MLB 2K12 video game. Verlander was on Conan to promote the game, which features him on the cover pitching with special effects all around him.

“Do you like how you’re depicted on the cover? You look kind of like a superhero here,” O’Brien asked as he showed off the cover.

“I mean, it’s me. I look great,” Verlander said with a laugh.

Now, to be fair, Verlander isn’t the first Tiger to plug one of his favorite places to eat. Remember Chipotle’s Master Burrito Ambassador, Will Rhymes, last spring? Is there an equivalent title Taco Bell can give Verlander? Maybe an endorsement deal pairing Verlander with Giants closer Brian Wilson?