Jim Leyland reflects on time with Tigers; reveals when he was first sold on Justin Verlander

In 22 years of managing Major League Baseball teams, former Detroit Tigers skipper Jim Leyland certainly saw some amazing talent up close and personal. Most of that talent took some time to develop in the minor league system but every now and then, there was a no-brainer.

On Friday, Leyland, along with Jalen Rose and Dennis Rodmanwill headline a class which will be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame at The Max M. Fisher Music Center.

Detroit Sports Nation was able to catch up with Leyland during Thursday’s VIP reception at the Motor City Casino and he shared a story with us from when he first knew Justin Verlander was ready for the Big Leagues.

“I remember in Spring Training of 2006, Dave Dombrowski came in and I said, ‘I can take whoever I want, right?’ He said, ‘Well, yeah, within reason.’ About two weeks into camp, I told him I wanted to take Justin Verlander. He said, ‘I don’t know, we’re still not sure about what he (Verlander) is gonna do.’ I told him, ‘we are sure about what’s happened in the past, so let’s try something fresh.’ Well, we took Justin and obviously, he won 17 games for us that season.” 

When Leyland came to Detroit, the Tigers were coming off a 71-91 2005 season which left them a full 28 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central. Though he does not like to take much credit, Leyland helped to turn things around immediately, as the Tigers won 95 games in 2006 and went to the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 1984.

We asked Leyland about his greatest moment while with the Tigers and rather than narrowing it down to one particular thing, he pointed out the 2006 season and how that team brought baseball back to Detroit.

“My most memorable moment was coming back here in 2006. We really brought the entire Tigers organization back together, including the fans, as we made it a family again. The fans loved it and we surprised everybody. The front office was on board, they supported me and it was unbelievable. Dave Dombrowski supported me and Mike Ilitch gave me the opportunity. So, what I’m proudest of is that we brought it back. I was a small part, a very small part, but we brought baseball back to Detroit in 2006.”

No, Jim, YOU were a VERY big part of bringing baseball back to Detroit. And for that, we thank you.

*If you would like to purchase tickets to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, please click the link below.

Jim Leyland headlines loaded 2017 class for Michigan Sports Hall of Fame