Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 7- Lakeland Flying Tigers

For the last hour or so of trying to write this post I’ve been constantly distracted by people asking me questions about the University of Oregon football and basketball programs. I guess that’s what I get for coming to a bar to try and crank this out.

I picked this hat up in December of 2011, along with a few other Minor League caps off of the Lids Web site. Like most of the hats I got, I bought it primarily off of the look. I mean, I did know that it was a team within the Detroit Tigers organization, but outside of that, I really didn’t know much. Most of my baseball focus has always been primarily centered around the Majors. Nothing personal against anyone coming up through the Minors, I just don’t have that much time/brain space available for so many names, numbers and dates to memorize; especially since the rosters are drastically different every other year. But, the one thing that Minor League teams have going for them over the Majors is the originality in their logos and colors.

The Tigers class-A squad has been a fixture of Lakeland, Florida since 1963; however, from 1963-2006 they were simply known as the Tigers. In 2007 the team changed its name to the Flying Tigers to pay tribute to the men who were trained at the Lakeland School of Aeronautics and fought for their country during World War II. The name was taken from the 100-plane squad who flew Curtiss P-40 Warhawks in the Pacific during the war. This hat in particular is their alternate logo cap, which features the P-40 as well as the slogan “Tiger Town USA.” I actually visited Lakeland over the summer, but got there well after the season had ended. Joker Marchant Stadium, where the Flying Tigers play, is also the same facility where the Tigers reside during Spring Training.

The biggest bummer about marking this hat up, along with any other newer style cap, is that I have a small window in which to pull anything historic from. I’m not saying that nothing has happened in the last six years, but it is sometimes nice to have to do way more in depth research to find something that even the most ardent of baseball fan didn’t know about. With that, I give you these…

#8- Andy Dirks is probably one of the most promising young talents currently playing at the Major League level, especially after the 2012 season. Dirks was drafted by the Tigers in the eighth round of the 2008 Amateur Draft from Wichita State University. (I’m not sure how many of you know that much about college baseball, but at some point be sure to look up “Benjamin Christensen; Wichita State”) Dirks played Rookie and low level-A ball for all of 2008, but ended up on the Flying Tigers roster for the start of 2009 season. In the 27 games he played, Dirks batted .330 with 18 RBI and no home runs. Not exactly colossal stats for that short of a time period; however, when compared to Brennan Boesch’s stats from 111 games in 2008, it’s quite significant. Plus, it’s just fun to say, “DIRKS!!!”

#41- One of the only pitchers to have to stick it out for two seasons in Lakeland, Charlie Furbush played in 37 games between 2009 and 2010, but only played a small handful of games in the Majors for the Tigers before being dealt to the Seattle Mariners for Doug Fister in 2011. Thus making “Fister for Furbush,” and vice-versa, one of the best sounding trades in MLB history. During his two years in Lakeland Furbush went 10-12 with a 3.73 ERA and 202 strikeouts. Furbush started all but one of the games he played in during this stretch. When he got to the Majors Furbush found himself playing in the same role; however, in 2012 the Mariners opted to move him to the bullpen after several shaky starts. The move proved beneficial for both parties as Furbush proved to be a valuable set-up guy before Tom Wilhelmsen saved 29 games. But most importantly, Charlie Furbush is just an awesome dude! 

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