Ordonez returns to Comerica Park: ‘This is my house’

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Magglio Ordonez

Detroit — Throw in daily workouts, not to mention the calorie-burning schedule that comes from being mayor of a Venezuelan town with 375,000 people, and it’s no wonder he looks great.

Magglio Ordonez is missing only his Tigers uniform. He otherwise is the same elegant gent, now 42 years old, who starred for the Tigers from 2005 through 2011.

“This is my house,” he said Friday night as the Tigers played the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park, a game Detroit won, 8-3. “This (Comerica Park and the Tigers) becomes part of your life. It’s your team.”

Ordonez was on hand as part of the Tigers’ commemoration of 2006, a season in which the team shook off a long span of losing seasons and made it to the World Series.

That ticket to the World Series was punched when Ordonez launched a space-shot home run to seal a sweep of the A’s in the American League Championship Series.

He watches a replay of that home run “every other week” as he keeps tabs via the Internet on his old team, which he’s happy to see is putting together a September playoff bid.

Ordonez will throw out the first pitch at today’s 1:05 p.m. rematch with the Royals.

“I’m proud to be part of the history here in Detroit,” said Ordonez, who came to the Tigers as part of a daring free-agent venture by owner Mike Ilitch after Ordonez had recovered from a leg ailment.

Ordonez became a heart-of-the-order fixture for manager Jim Leyland’s clubs and won a batting title in 2007 when he batted .363.

“The single greatest season by a hitter I’ve ever seen,” Leyland wrote on a baseball, presented to Ordonez, after he had sewed up his batting title.

“Leyland was a leader — like a general,” Ordonez said Friday, sitting in an interview room within the Tigers press box. “He was a leader, and Leyland was a gentleman.”

Although he had big seasons with the White Sox before the Tigers got involved, Ordonez says there is no debate. He is attached to one team. And it’s not the White Sox.

“Never,” Ordonez said, with not the least malice aimed at Chicago. “I retired as a Detroit Tiger. Look at me now — I’m in Detroit.”

His four-year term as mayor of Sotillo expires in December 2017. He will get busy with more pleasant pursuits, which at the moment consists of owning various businesses, including a Venezuelan professional baseball team.

Might there be a big-league reunion down the road?

Ordonez mentioned Friday a word — “managing.” He’s interested.

“We’ll see,” he said, with a smile as bright as his orange shirt. “I have to wait for an offer.” @Lynn_Henning