WASHINGTON -- The Tigers will take part in Major League Baseball's Mother's Day salute on Sunday by honoring Tracie Kania as their honorary bat girl for the day, recognizing her fight against breast cancer and her work to help find a cure over the last several years.
Kania was diagnosed five years ago with IIIB inflammatory breast cancer at age 32, and underwent 33 radiation sessions over 27 weeks of chemotherapy. With the support of family and friends, she made it through, and has tried to give back while sharing her story. She's a representative for the Race for the Cure, benefitting Komen for a Cure, a fundraiser for The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, and a participant in Bras for a Cause, supporting Gilda's Club of Metro Detroit.
In addition to game tickets for Sunday's game and a pregame ceremony alongside fellow breast cancer survivors, Kania will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. She'll also receive a special honorary bat girl jersey to go with a special pink-stitched Rawlings baseball and a certificate of recognition from Commissioner Bud Selig.
Kania was chosen among numerous inspirational stories of survival submitted and voted upon by fans at HonoraryBatGirl.com. In addition, a celebrity judging panel included Major League stars CC Sabathia, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen and Alex Gordon, Extra TV reporter Maria Menounos and MLB Network's Sam Ryan.
Interleague schedule works in V-Mart's favor
WASHINGTON -- The good news for Victor Martinez is that the new schedule of Interleague Play -- with series against National League teams scattered throughout the season rather than one long June stretch -- means he doesn't have to worry about being sidelined for long without the designated hitter. In the case of this two-game series against the Nationals, it's not long at all.
The better news, though, is that he's thinking he could catch by the time the Tigers have three-game series on the road vs. the Mets in August and the Marlins at season's end.
"My knees are doing great, everything's doing great," Martinez said. "Hopefully by the end of the season, I'll be able to get behind the plate for a few games."
In fact, Martinez said, he could catch now in a pinch.
"I mean, I'm pretty healthy," Martinez said. "That's not a concern at all. It's a matter of just getting ready."
It's an interesting outlook for someone who missed last season recovering from knee surgery, but it's something that has been a possibility for a while. Manager Jim Leyland didn't rule it out in Spring Training.
For this series, though, and most likely for the two-game series in Pittsburgh at the end of May, he's a pinch-hitter. It's a role that his approach to the DH spot, keeping himself ready to hit between at-bats by working out in the clubhouse, helps him handle.
Martinez is 11-for-33 with a home run, nine RBIs and 10 walks for his career as a pinch-hitter, but nine of those hits came from 2002 to 2007. He had only one at-bat as a pinch-hitter with the Tigers two years ago, grounding out.
"I think I kind of like how they play the games this series, two days," Martinez said. "Coming off the bench five, seven days, it would be tough."
Downs' thoughts with Happ after scary incident
WASHINGTON -- Darin Downs has had enough time go by since he was hit by a line drive in the Minor Leagues, fracturing his skull and nearly ending his life, that he doesn't think about himself when he sees a play like the liner that J.A. Happ took Tuesday night.
His thoughts, and his prayers, were with Happ.
"How he's doing, how his friends and family are worried about him," Downs said Wednesday afternoon. "As a fellow pitcher and baseball player, I'm just in awe. You just start praying for him."
The news that Happ is fine, other than a contusion and stitches, was welcome for Downs, just as it was for manager Jim Leyland. As for the debate that follows on the potential future for protective headgear, both expect it's going to be a long process.
As traumatic of an experience as Downs had, as close as he came to death, he said it's not as easy as coming up with a quick solution and mandating pitchers wear it. It's going to take time and research.
"It wouldn't have helped in this incident. Maybe it would have helped me," Downs said. "But nobody's going to wear one unless it feels comfortable and feels natural. It's kind of like the new helmets. They had to make them as light as they possibly could so that guys would accept them."
Downs is taking part in the process. He tried on a couple hats over the winter that a company is developing. The biggest problem they encounter, he said, is that head shapes vary so much from one athlete to another.
"They didn't really fit right on my head," Downs said. "Every head's different, so you'd have to actually custom fit the piece and custom fit the actual crown of the hat, because with the insert, the crown of the hat would sit higher than normal. A lot of things come into it, so it'll be a while until something comes up."
Leyland, who sits on Major League Baseball's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, agreed.
"I think you just have to wait and see what they design, what they come up with," he said. "There's too many factors involved in that, and there's too many people that would have to get that passed through before they do that.
"I mean, common sense says [you want] something for protection, but there's a lot of logistics that are involved in that -- what pitchers feel, the Players Association, the rules committee. It's just too much of an in-depth thing right now. I'm sure they'll do a lot of studies on what they think might be advantageous or helpful."
Tigers' annual summer tryout set for June 10
WASHINGTON -- The Tigers will hold their annual summer tryout for interested players on Monday, June 10, at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich., the home of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
The tryout is open to interested players and requires no pre-registration or participation fees. Participants can show up to register beginning at 8 a.m. ET before the tryouts begin an hour later.
Players interested in trying out must bring their own glove and workout equipment, with the Tigers providing wooden bats, helmets and baseballs.
Former Tigers skipper Anderson's wife dies at 79
WASHINGTON -- Carol Anderson, widow of former Tigers manager and Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson, passed away Tuesday evening from natural causes. She was 79.
Carol and Sparky Anderson were married for 57 years, according to the Detroit News, and lived together in Thousand Oaks, Calif., for more than 40 years during his managerial career in Cincinnati and Detroit.
Carol Anderson remained at their home after Sparky passed away in 2010.
The couple is survived by their sons, Lee and Albert, along with a daughter, Shirlee Englebrecht, and numerous grandchildren.