Detroit — Peggy Pickott, 78, has been a Tigers fan for 46 years. So it’s not surprising that a snowstorm battering her hometown of Stanton, near Grand Rapids, wouldn’t prevent her from making it to Comerica Park on Saturday to meet the players from her favorite team.
“I’ve just always watched them,” said Pickott, who was among the hundreds of fans that braved the cold to attend sold-out TigerFest.
The tickets to the annual fan celebration were a present from her son John, who has followed in his mother’s footsteps and faithfully followed the team all his life.
“When it’s your team, you stick with them,” said John Pickott, 50. “You never give up.”
It’s a new era for the Tigers, who open their season at home against the Kansas City Royals on March 31.
The Tigers were eliminated from the 2013 playoffs by the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, and shortly afterward, longtime manager Jim Leyland announced his retirement. Former catcher and one-time Tiger Brad Ausmus was hired as his replacement.
The team also traded first baseman Prince Fielder for seond baseman Ian Kinsler, and made a number of other moves to prepare for the upcoming season.
Kirk Finkbeiner, 63, attended TigerFest with his son Chad, 35, and grandson Tyler, 6. He’s been a fan “since I was a kid growing up,” and attends Opening Day with his son every year.
“I took him to games at the old Tiger Stadium,” said Finkbeiner, of Chesterfield.
The elder men are looking to Tyler to carry on the family’s love for Tigers baseball for the upcoming year.
“I’m looking forward to the season,” Finkbeiner said. “I’m hoping they get back in to the playoffs again and win.”
Among the activities Saturday, fans were able to tour the home clubhouse, hit a few baseballs and watch a bat-carving demonstration.
The event also offered fans a chance to meet some of the players, including up-and-comers Nick Castellanos, who’ll take over at third base now that Migel Cabrera will play first base, and quickfooted Jose Iglesias, who proved his talent during the Tigers’ playoff run last year and will return for a bigger role as the shortstop of the future.
Ausmus also was on hand, as well as fan-favorites Torii Hunter, Alex Avila, Austin Jackson and Anibal Sanchez.
Kristen Edwards, of Jackson, is a new Tigers fan, and she and her sons Trevor, 12, and McKennon, 6, decked themselves out in Tigers gear to meet the players and coaches.
“It just makes your heart feel nice and warm when they are in the ballpark and winning,” said Edwards, shortly after getting some autographs.
Edwards was joined by her friend, Katie Mathews, a longtime fan who said she is looking forward to the new-look team.
“I’m kind of sad (Prince) Fielder is gone, but I’m excited to see the news players,” Mathews said. “Because we’re going to the World Series this year and we are going to win.”