LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michigan's 7.5 percent unemployment rate this winter is the highest in the country. Since 2006, more than 70,000 homes have been foreclosed in Detroit alone. And property values are down nearly 20 percent.
Yet after the Detroit Tigers traded for shortstop Edgar Renteria, third baseman Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis this winter, they sold so many season tickets that they eventually halted sales to make sure last year's season ticketholders didn't get shut out.
And, incredibly, when the Tigers put 2008 individual game tickets on sale Saturday, they sold 80,000 in the first two hours, 176,000 over the first eight hours and 192,000 by noon Sunday.
Baseball is back in Detroit, maybe just when folks needed it most.
And the Tigers themselves absolutely have noticed.
"It's one of the best sports towns I've ever been in," slugger Gary Sheffield says. "I didn't know that much about it. But they're the most passionate fans I've ever seen."
Center fielder Curtis Granderson, beginning his third full season with the Tigers, shakes his head in awe at the number of tickets that are flying off of the shelves for '08.
He knows it's because these Tigers are loaded, and he believes there's another reason, too.
"I think it's the fact that we play hard," he says. "It's a hard-working area, and I think people are like, 'Hey, I'm working hard, and I want to enjoy watching others work hard, too.'"
Whatever, as the auto industry sags, concern over job security grows and homes sit unsold, maybe Tigers rounding the bases will at least ease the suffering for some.
"I have no idea how many runs we scored last year," Granderson says, chuckling. "I know it was a lot.
"It's a good buzz for the city of Detroit. They want to be excited, and they should be."
Likes: There are few finer people in the game than Curtis Granderson. ... The paw prints in the carpet in the Tigers' Lakeland clubhouse. ... Thunderstorms, like the one that just rolled in following the Tigers-Astros game this afternoon over in Kissimmee. ... Even without Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, the Astros have as loose a clubhouse as you'll find. ... Watching election returns. ... The prospect of a couple of days at home this weekend before landing in Arizona and the Cactus League next week. ... Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies. ... Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour on XM. And Dylan's Modern Times disc.
Dislikes: Orlando traffic. ... Kissimmee traffic. ... Route 192.
Sunblock day? Not really. Warm, but very overcast. Dry, but thunderstorms expected later this afternoon and evening. Check that. The T-storms are here. It's dry no longer. I'm going to get absolutely soaked walking to my car.
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"Have you seen the flags of freedom?
"What color are they now?
"Do you think that you believe in yours
"More than they do theirs somehow?
-- Neil Young, Flags of Freedom