Chris Ilitch: We're committed to long-term Tigers ownership
Detroit — After joining the Tigers for their annual photo-day ritual, Chris Ilitch said Tuesday that Detroit’s big-league baseball team would remain in family hands for the foreseeable future.
“I am committed, and we are committed,” said Ilitch, who is Tigers chairman and CEO, “to long-term ownership of the Detroit Tigers.”
Ilitch spoke to media in the Tigers dugout on a sun-soaked Tuesday at Comerica Park hours before the Tigers were to play the Houston Astros.
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He said he was “very pleased” with the job Tigers general manager Al Avila and the front office were doing in rebuilding a Tigers team that is in a ground-up bid to return playoff baseball to Detroit.
He said there had been “phenomenal progress” in 2018 as a team earlier carrying an aging roster, heavy payroll, and need for reviving its farm system, made strides across the spectrum.
“Any time you go through a rebuild it’s rough, but I’m thrilled with the progress,” Ilitch said, “particularly with player development, and rebuilding and restocking the minors.”
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The son of late Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who died in February 2017, said 2018 had brought “invaluable progress,” as well as a “vision and plan for long-term sustainable success.”
The Tigers on Tuesday carried a 59-85 record and will, for the first time in 14 years, not reach 2 million in Comerica Park attendance.
“I think we knew when we went through a rebuild, TV ratings and attendance would be impacted,” Ilitch said, “but I know Tigers fans — and they’re loyal.”
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He said he had heard from countless fans that this year was, for all its bruises, invigorating because of new blood that had arrived: Niko Goodrum, Jeimer Candelario, Ronny Rodriguez, Dawel Lugo, and others who have initiated a roster re-seeding.
“I’m having a blast,” Ilitch said. “So much credit goes to Gardy (Ron Gardenhire) and his coaching staff.
“It’s been a lot of fun.”