Minneapolis — Brad Ausmus is not sentimental by nature and his stoicism is a point of pride.
But he did get choked up when he addressed the team before the game Saturday.
“I didn’t break down and cry or anything,” he said. “But I got a lump in my throat.”
Same Sunday — he didn’t expect it to be emotional, but it was. With Ian Kinsler managing the team, Ausmus took everything in one last time.
“This is it,” he said afterward. “This is the last time I’ll manage in a Tigers uniform. I appreciate my time here. I wasn’t really thinking too much about baseball because Kinsler was running the game.
“It was a solemn feeling.”
Ausmus has known since Aug. 31 he wasn’t going to manage the Tigers beyond this season. Even if general manager Al Avila had offered him an extension, he would have politely and respectfully declined. When Avila came to him on Sept. 20 and told him there would be no extension offer, it amounted to a mutual and amicable parting.
And yet. Ausmus was determined to finish his contract. He wanted to see his fourth and final season through to the end.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a quitter,” he said.
He admits now, though, that it was awkward.
“In some ways, it was kind of strange,” he said. “I’m not going to be here next year with these young players, and yet I am still trying to help them. I am still trying to help them figure out how they can be better and help the Detroit Tigers win games — even though I won’t be with them.
“I just felt like the players could look at me and go, ‘Why should I listen to you. You’re not going to be here next year.’”
That never happened, as evidenced by the emotional team meeting Saturday, the gifts and sincere well-wishes he got from the players — not to mention the effort given on the field.
“I guess I’ve been around the game a lot more years than they have and that would make them listen,” he said.
Or, that what he was telling them was beneficial. Ausmus refused, even in the final days, to take any credit for his role in the development of Nick Castellanos or James McCann, young players who grew and matured steadily under his watch.
“It has more to do with their talent than me guiding them in the right direction,” he said. “Plus, I don’t want the credit because I don’t want the blame if they fail.”
He chuckled at the last, a quote that he would say to put in the sarcasm font if it was printed.
He didn’t want any credit for the patience he showed, not only with the younger players, but with struggling veterans like Justin Upton last year.
“Patience is huge in the game of baseball, period, and especially with younger players,” he said. “I was saying that long before I got this job. Everybody wants the lineup changed right away. They want guys benched, they want guys taken out of the rotation — they want guys shut down for the season.
“Can we just take a step back and understand the season is six months long and you will have ups and downs?”
Asked what he was most proud of through his four years at the helm, he talked about the character of the players.
“I think the guys went about their business the right way,” he said. “They were always here doing their work, playing through some injuries. We had a bunch of guys, until the end of this year, who went to post on a regular basis and never stopped playing hard — even when we were down seven runs in the ninth inning or when we were out of the pennant race.”
He said he felt no anxiety about leaving, nor did he feel especially liberated. But, for the first time since he was a freshman in college in 1988, his life will not be dictated by the baseball calendar.
“I’m certainly going to have more free time,” he said.
The immediate plan is to visit his father for a couple of days, then meet up with his wife and younger daughter in New York before going to see his older daughter, who is a sophomore at Dartmouth.
“I guess I can catch up on some surfing,” he said.
He does want to manage again, and next year if the right opportunity comes.
“I guess I don’t feel like I’m done in the game of baseball,” he said. “If I was retiring, if I was finished with baseball, or baseball was finished with me, it would be a different story.
“Who knows? Maybe baseball is finished with me; there are only 30 of these jobs. I’m just going to go home and if my phone rings, I am going to answer it.”