News of the Tigers' decision to sign Prince Fielder was shocking, and for many fans it is something they will never forget.
There are certain moments in sports that are so memorable -- for good or bad reasons -- that you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when they happened. Some moments just stick out, such as the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup (four separate times in my lifetime), Magglio Ordonez sending the Tigers to the World Series in 2006, Michigan winning the 1998 Rose Bowl to clinch a perfect season, Justin Verlander throwing a no-hitter (twice), Armando Galarraga being robbed of history and Michigan being upset by Appalachian State in 2007.
All of the moments I just listed are related to things that happened in games, but there are also moments in sports off the field that survive the test of time. For me, one that really sticks out is the death of Bo Schembechler in 2006, which I found out during lunch when I was in high school. On the eve of the matchup of No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan, the last thing I expected to hear was news that Bo died. To say the very least, it was shocking.
In the last two weeks, the Tigers have provided a pair of shocking moments that I will forever remember, and interestingly enough, they happened when I was in the same class at the University of Michigan. On Tuesday afternoon last week, while distracted, I checked Twitter and discovered the awful news that Victor Martinez tore his ACL. It was tough to focus the rest of the class with that crushing news on my mind, as it appeared the Tigers' hopes of contending for a World Series title had gone down the drain.
On Tuesday this week during the same class, I checked Twitter and saw a flurry of tweets related to Prince Fielder finally getting a deal. At the time, the tweets I was reading were related to the hoax that he had agreed to a deal with the Washington Nationals. I thought nothing of it and closed out Twitter, not wanting to be too distracted. I couldn't resist, though, and later in the class when I checked Twitter again, this was the first tweet I saw:
Tigers 2012 lineup with Prince Fielder is tremendous. Lineup in 2013 when Victor Martinez returns healthy is insane— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) January 24, 2012
Needless to say, I was quite confused. Last I saw, there were denials that Fielder was nearing a deal in response to a hoax that he had signed with the Nationals. What's more, the last time Tigers fans had heard anything about Fielder potentially landing in Detroit, we were told by multiple people, including Dave Dombrowski, that it just wasn't a good fit.
Once it sunk in that I had just read something about Fielder being in the Tigers lineup, I quickly scrolled down my Twitter feed and nearly jumped out of my seat upon realizing that the Tigers had in fact agreed to a deal with Fielder. I resisted doing a Jim Schwartz-like fist pump in the middle of class, but I was unable to contain my smile over the news that Detroit had a new Prince coming to town. I'm sure those sitting near me were befuddled over why I was so happy to be discussing "Cold War culture," but at that point the only things on my mind were lineup combinations and how many days there were until Opening Day.
Shortly after the news got out that Fielder was headed to Detroit, several people checked in with the story of where they were when they found out, including Justin Verlander.
Was on the golf course when I heard...Wasn't playing too well at the time.The prince news turned my day around!— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) January 25, 2012
Also, former Tiger Cecil Fielder, who is Prince's estranged father, shared his story about hearing the news.
"I just landed in New York, going to a BAT dinner tonight, and I got that call, and that's crazy," Cecil said in an interview with MLB radio. "He's going to come full circle after being in Detroit most of his young life, so I think he'll be comfortable in that place. Adding him to what they already have makes them pretty strong."
The Tigers making a big move in the offseason isn't necessarily surprising anymore, but this was different. It came so far out of left field that fans were left with their jaws on the ground. For a week, the assumption was that the Tigers were going to replace V-Mart with an aging designated hitter in what would ultimately be an uninspiring signing. Instead, Mike Ilitch opened up his checkbook and decided to give a nine-year, $214 million deal to a player fans wrote off as a realistic option after repeatedly being told it wasn't going to happen.
It's not often an offseason transaction or an injury is so stunning that years from now I will be able to recall exactly what I was doing when I found out about it, but the Prince Fielder signing combined with the Victor Martinez news from a week earlier certainly is an exception. I can't tell you even one thing that was discussed during that class the last two weeks, but I certainly won't forget the moment when my hopes of seeing the Tigers win a World Series went from down the drain back to off the charts by simply reading a few tweets.