Collins sees benefits of Gibson’s baserunning expertise

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Kirk Gibson, left, talks with Justin Upton during Tigers batting practice at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.

Lakeland, Fla. — There is nothing magical or mysterious about Kirk Gibson’s input.

It is one voice, one man’s big-league experience, all designed to enhance a team’s tightened approach to baserunning in 2016.

“Absolutely, and his track record speaks for itself,” said Tyler Collins, the Tigers outfielder who has been among players who have worked one-on-one with a former player, coach, and manager who now is an analyst on Tigers telecasts.

“Mostly, it’s just situational awareness, scenarios about what to do and what not to do.

“The game’s the same, but the game also changes.”

Gibson has soft-pedaled his invitation from Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who thought Gibson could help with a team’s mission to be more aggressive, and wiser, in handling the basepaths in 2016.

Gibson says he is simply amplifying, in select ways at select times, a broader plan overseen by Ausmus. It is basic baserunning protocol, Gibson said.

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But in the same way teaching golf professionals all impart thoughts or techniques individual to their experience, Gibson, who loved running the bases with fury and with smarts during his 17 big-league seasons, has ideas honed from his days playing principally for the Tigers and Dodgers.

A move here, an arm position there — little motions can mean the difference, he and Collins both say.

Gibson, of course, was a thoroughbred runner even before he played baseball. He was an All-America receiver at Michigan State in the late 1970s and, by most NFL front office’s agreement, would have been the first overall pick in the 1979 draft had he not given baseball a crack the previous year, which unleashed a new focus and career.

At the NFL pro day in East Lansing in 1978, Gibson ran an astonishing 4.28 40-yard dash — timed by multiple NFL scouts.

“Yeah, I heard about some of his times,” Collins said Tuesday morning as the Tigers got ready for a Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium.

“I love that.”