LOCATION: Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
This item has been years and years in the making. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to coordinate a game where Verlander starts AND is close by. I even flew to Detroit last summer for a home game only to have him pitch the night I flew in and not the game I went to.
Where did my obsession with seeing Verlander play baseball start…well in college where we knew each other of course. In 2001, I was a nervous freshman at ODU living at the dorms. My suitemate was a girl named Emily. Emily and Justin had dated since early high school and decided to go to college together since he had a baseball scholarship. Even though Emily was my suitemate, Justin lived in the dorm with her most of the time and we had to see each other a lot that first year. While Emily was very stand offish, Justin was the opposite. Whenever he saw me in the café or on campus he always made a point to say hi and see how I was doing. Or would offer for me to sit with his group to get to know other people. Very nice man. I saw him play at ODU once when I lived near the fields. His determination for the game was very well known.
After college, I didn’t see him or think about him again until the 2006 World Series. I had no idea he was picked up for the Tigers until my dad was watching the game on TV. I saw Justin on the screen and was shocked to recognize him and actually know the guy. Soon after, he was known as Rookie of the Year and one of the best pitchers in the MLB. It was after that I knew I had to see him play in the major leagues sometime. There were many failed attempts to see him, and was almost ruined by upcoming trade talks, but the cards landed just right for an Orioles vs Tigers game.
I took my friend Lina with me, which was her first major league baseball game. We went for batting practice on the chance that he may meet fans and sign autographs. I went with a sign made just so he would remember me. “Hey Verlander! Throw me a ball and don’t be lame, cuz we were suitemates at Roger’s Main.”
Unfortunately we did not see him at batting practice. Afterwards, we got some food and made it to our seats in the far left field. While sitting there I looked up and saw someone stretching with the number 35 on their back. I was confused since they switched uniform colors between game warmups and batting practice. I thought it was an Orioles player until I saw Verlander on the back. I quickly pushed everyone out of the way to make my way to where he was. I held up my sign and yelled for him, but he didn’t acknowledge me. A girl mentioned that during warmups he was not allowed to speak or look at fans since it breaks concentration (and probably causes fan panic).
However, as he was walking I could see him clearly read the sign. He knew…HE KNEW. That was definitely the closest I would get to him that night, and it was worth it. I must add that he hasn’t changed at all since 18. And you definitely can’t miss the guy considering he’s 6’5.
We proceeded to see the game where Tigers won 5-2 and they even had a grand slam. Hopefully I’ll get to see him some other time at a game before his career is done. He is definitely a great one to watch. I can see why Detroit loves him so much because he has always been just a great person to know.
*Thank you Lina for accompanying me on this adventure.
WOULD I DO THIS AGAIN: Absolutely! I love baseball games though.
HOW TO DO THIS: Watch the probable pitching schedule and plan games based on when he starts. It’s hard to do in advance.