Who's your Tiger this year?

Karen Dybis
Special to The Detroit News

Heads up, Justin Verlander. There's another Tiger on your tail, and Metro Detroit retailers of all stripes say Yoenis Cespedes will be the guy to beat this year when it comes to baseball caps, apparel, novelties and related merchandise.

Khiry Buford, 24, of Pontiac, checks out official Tigers merchandise at the new Forman Mills in the Oakland Pointe shopping center.

Cespedes, the team's new Cuban outfielder who wears No. 52, shows promise when it comes to sales related to gear bearing his name, according to area store buyers and managers. Cespedes will join superstar pitcher Verlander, fan-favorite first baseman Miguel "Miggy" Cabrera and other bestselling Tigers players on retailers' shelves just in time for Opening Day, Monday, which retailers describe as one of the biggest sales days of the baseball season.

Tigers merchandise — both official Major League Baseball-sanctioned gear and related products featuring the Old English D — has been a strong seller for several years, store officials said.

They believe that this season will continue that trend, especially with crowd enthusiasm for new players like Cespedes promising to boost revenue even further.

"We listen to our customers to find what is trending; we stock what they're asking for and who they're looking for at all of our stores," said Kirsten Collins, marketing manager for Detroit-based GameDay Detroit, which has two Detroit stores as well as mall-based locations at Twelve Oaks, Great Lakes, Partridge Creek and Lakeside.

It helps that Cespedes already is a popular player; having him on the Tigers is sure to spark ticket sales along with merchandise, store owners believe.

For example, Cespedes came in No. 9 in terms of the most popular sales of Majestic jerseys from MLB.com/Shop, the official online shop of Major League Baseball.

The only Tiger on the 2014 list was Cabrera at No. 8.

That was a big jump for Miggy, who came in at No. 12 on the 2013 list.

Fan favorites always sell well, but it is the unexpected player whose season takes off who makes merchandising the Tigers section of Forman Mills almost as exciting as making the playoffs, said Rick Forman, CEO.

Forman Mills recently added two Metro Detroit stores: Its Southfield location opened last November and its Pontiac store opened in March.

Jeff Wethy of Waterford Township checks out a Pillow Pet among all the Tigers merchandise at Forman Mills in Pontiac. The Old English D logo is important to customers, CEO Rick Forman says.

While the New Jersey-based chain is best known for its closeouts, it also carries a wide array of sporting goods for local teams, including lightweight jerseys, T-shirts, caps, socks and pajamas, Forman said.

"There are certain people who are obsessed with certain players, so we make sure to have the top five players' gear always in stock. But we also carry throwback players (items) and the Tigers logo for people who want to show their loyalty to the team," Forman said.

"Detroit is amazing because the people are so proud of the city and the team; the logo is more important (to our customers) than ever before."

The Shirt Box in Farmington Hills also has seen a rise in its curated selection of Tigers gear, said store co-owner Rod Brown. Its upscale selection of cufflinks, T-shirts, shirts, hoodies and jackets tends to focus on the Old English D, which not only represents the Detroit Tigers but the city, Brown said.

"Detroit is like the comeback kid. That Old English D covers so much more than the Tigers; it's pro-Detroit and pro-city," Brown said.

"The cufflinks are a perfect example. You can wear them to work in the morning and then out to the game in the afternoon. They're distinctive and a great accessory anytime."

Opening Day

Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers

1:08 p.m. Monday on FSN, FSDT, WXYT-FM (97.1)