Gibson: “Nothing but good things to say” about Justin Upton

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TigerFest and the winter caravan provide a great opportunity to catch up with players and coaches who haven’t been seen around town since September or October. There was plenty of catching-up in that respect this week. But few sights were more encouraging than Kirk Gibson, sounding energetic, moving around, and eager to broadcast some games. The Fox Sports Detroit analyst, who did limited broadcasts near the end of the season after missing most of the first half, does not want his battle with Parkinson’s disease to hold him back.

“I don’t know [how many games], more than I did,” Gibson said Saturday at TigerFest. “I did 30-some last year, but I’m planning on doing more. I’ve learned how to maintain a lot more [with] medication and a lot of physical therapy. I do a lot of movement stuff.

“People box, people do yoga, whatever. I’m just really active. I climb trees and I stay up there for hours. I do all kind of different movements. I just stay active and I do my therapy. So far, so good.”

There was an energy to Gibson on Saturday. He kidded around with fans as he reminisced about 1984 with Alan Trammell, with whom he planned to go snowmobiling right after Tigerfest ended.

“I’m going to drive my machine about a thousand or so miles,” Gibson said.

He looked at Justin Upton, the new Tiger signed just a few days ago, and saw a more mature player than the kid he coached and managed in Arizona during his first years in the big leagues. The Diamondbacks traded Upton to Atlanta in 2013 while Gibson was manager and Kevin Towers was the GM, but Gibson said he had nothing but positives to say about him.

General manager Al Avila talked with him before pursing a deal with the free agent a week ago, and indicated he was given the same message.

“J-Up is just a very good player,” Gibson said. I mean, he came up in 2007, we won our division that year, went to the playoffs, beat the Cubs, then lost. But he’s extremely talented. He always has been. He’s learned to harness his ability much more. He understands how to handle the peaks and valleys. A lot of things that he had to learn were a lot of things that I had to learn.”

Gibson noted that Upton played through 2012, his final season in Arizona, with a thumb injury.

“A lot of people say he shouldn’t do this or do that,” Gibson said. “It reminds me a little bit of Lou Whitaker, how people say, ‘Well, he should’ve played like this guy or that guy. He would’ve been the best second baseman off all time.’ All I know about Lou Whitaker: He was a clutch player, he was an impact player and he could win you ballgames in a lot of different ways. And I think J-Up is kind of like that. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. I mean, he’s human. He’s going to have his failures. But he makes us a much better team. And I’m excited to cover it.

“I was honored, and it was really cool, that I got to have J-Up. I was his baserunning coach and outfield coach when he first came up. This kid, he’s got a great personality. He laughs. But he’s like me in that he hates to fail. He had to learn how to deal with that. My son’s the same way. I’m like, ‘Ok, you failed, let’s fix it. The game’s still going on.’

“I used to throw my bat, throw my helmet. People say, ‘Oh, that’s BS.’ And I’m like, ‘Why?’ That’s who he is. The guy has passion. He cares. I know there’s been others in the past that say players don’t care. When people make mistakes on that field, nobody cares more than those people. But overall, he’s going to fit in great with these guys. It’s going to be a real good situation for him.”

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Good to see Gibby is doing well. Thinking back to 84 what a team !!!

‘But he’s like me in that he hates to fail.’ Tigers have had some high profile signings in the past that just didn’t work, in part due to the player’s personality. Guys that come to mind are Juan Gonzalez and to a certain degree, Prince Fielder. Prince just seemed reserved at best and dispassionate at worst. IMO, a successful team does need some fiery personalities. Verlander and Kinsler seem to be that way. perhaps Upton can contribute in his own way to help stoke the competitive fire of the team.

I’ve wondered if Gibson had come along later whether he could have made it as a professional athlete in 2 sports a la Deion Sanders. it seemed that Gibson brought a football mentality to the diamond. can’t say i’ve seen a recent MLBer who has approached that level of aggression on the diamond.

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