Bullpen misery helps one Tigers’ fan turn a buck

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — When K-Rod goes Ka-boom, there’s one Tigers fan who hears Ka-ching.

Kevin Coil is the man behind those “My Bullpen Makes Me Drink” shirts you’ve, no doubt, seen on occasion at Comerica Park. And when the Tigers bullpen is very, very bad, business is very, very good.

Like, oh, this past weekend.

“I have a conflict of interest inside of me, because I’m a diehard Tigers fan,” Coil said Monday, after Francisco Rodriguez had blown back-to-back save chances out in Oakland on Saturday and Sunday.

“But when I turn it on and the bullpen is having a meltdown, I can’t help but laugh.

“I usually make a couple bucks.

“I’m starting to feel bad.”

Coil doesn’t want to get into numbers, but he did say the last three weeks have been his busiest stretch of sales since he started prior to the 2014 season.

He was inspired by the 2013 postseason, when the Tigers took a 1-0 series lead on the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, took a big lead in Game 2 at Fenway Park, and then watched it all come crashing down with David Ortiz’s grand slam.

The Tigers lost the series in six games. Many fans believe that was the most talented team Detroit’s had in its baseball resurgence, and it all went kaput on one Joaquin Benoit change-up.

“I don’t really drink that much anymore, to be honest, probably because of the Tigers bullpen,” Coil said. “A few years ago in the playoffs, though, I found the beer cans piling up, so it really was an honest-to-God statement. And I said, ‘You know what, I’ve gotta put that on a shirt.’ ”

The whole business is a hobby for Coil, who has expanded the brand over time with “My Bullpen Makes Me Drink” koozies, and player- (or manager-) specific shirts. On the latter, he finally got a cease-and-desist letter from the Major League Baseball Players’ Association. So he stopped.

But nobody’s said anything about the bullpen shirts, which feature a super-creative logo that’s a perfect legal spin off MLB’s logo — only the player isn’t batting, but rather is pounding a beer.

When he first started selling the shirts, he gave them to friends and family. Twitter helped the brand expand, big-time. And he makes sure to promote the site on Facebook in the moments following a Tigers blown save.

Now, Coil, 37, of St. Clair Shores, will go to Tigers game and see fans wearing his shirts.

“The bullpen, every team in baseball, that’s the biggest problem for any team,” Coil said. “You can say that about any team at any point.”

Then, he added, laughing, “But not like this.”

Coil recently started expanding into other markets, like Los Angeles with the Dodgers and Cincinnati with the Reds. Cincy was particularly good for business last year.

At his website, you can get the design in just about every team’s colors, in a variety of styles, from T-shirts ($17.99) to tank tops ($19.99) to hoodies ($34.99).

But the Tigers remain the biggest hit, of course, given they were the motivation for the business, and the bullpen woes now go back more than a decade.

Interestingly, Coil actually decided to let his domain expire after last season, figuring maybe that’d provide the Tigers some good juju. Then reality set in, and he re-upped a few games into the season.

“For a minute,” said Coil, who’s actually followed on Twitter by Alex Wilson — a Tigers reliever who once told Coil he thinks the shirts are funny. “Trying to give them some good vibes. I was starting to feel like I’m jinxing the team.”