His voice has been as much a fixture at Comerica Park as the scoreboard in left field, or the downtown Detroit skyline, but Sunday will be the last time Bobb Vergiels’ public-address narrative is heard at Comerica Park.
Vergiels, 66, has decided to retire following 15 seasons and 1,200 games listing lineups, welcoming national-anthem singers, and introducing players and pitchers.
“I made up my mind about a month ago,” said Vergiels, who has regularly commuted to and from his home in Leesburg, Fla., to Detroit, and back, generally 12 times and 30,000 miles per Tigers season.
Vergiels said a chilling moment in August told him it was time to stay home.
He was driving south on I-75, near Jasper, Fla., where he regularly overnights following a 15-hour trek from Detroit en route to Leesburg.
An 18-wheel truck began to drift toward his right outside lane and Nissan Rogue, the driver clearly asleep. Vergiels steered hard onto a grassy berm and stopped only feet from a heavy exit sign. The move saved him from a collision that would have overwhelmed his Nissan.
“When the truck started coming over,” Vergiels said, “I honked, I blinked my lights, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get his attention.
“Eventually, I was able to get to the berm. He jerked the truck back, hard, so apparently he woke up.”
Vergiels is a Monroe native and longtime radio announcer, as well as communications director, who moved to Florida several years ago to care for his late mother.
He also worked until two years ago as the public-address announcer for University of Michigan men’s and women’s basketball games.
Vergiels began with the Tigers in 2004 and will continue to work as the team’s spring-training p.a. voice during Grapefruit League games at Joker Marchant Stadium’s Publix Field. He also will handle lineups and introductions in 2019 for the Single-A Lakeland Flying Tigers.
“I’ve told my friends,” Vergiels said, speaking of his Flying Tigers gig, “I’ll still get to see the Tigers — just three years before you will!”
Vergiels’ time behind the mic has been marked by a steady, high-energy voice and style. It is a delivery that seems never, for even a moment, to waver, even during the tedium of 81 home games and moments that can be light on, if not devoid of, drama.
“You know, I consider myself the luckiest guy I ever met,” Vergiels said. “I was able to announce Tigers baseball during arguably the best decade of Tigers baseball in history (2006-14, five playoff appearances, two World Series).
“So many of those nights, with 45,000 jammed in, you couldn’t get a ticket.”
Vergiels will throw the honorary first pitch during Sunday’s home-season finale against the Royals. Seated in the first three rows of Section 119 will be 74 family members.
“It hasn’t hit me that I’m leaving yet,” Vergiels said Friday. “I think it will probably be tough next spring, at Lakeland, when they’re down to 28, 29 guys, and I see the (equipment) trucks pull up, and I know they’re going to Toronto for Opening Day and I’m not heading north.
“But I’m really happy to have made the decision.”
Vergiels will leave Tuesday for Florida, driving of course, following a speech scheduled for Monday in Ida, where for years he has resided.
The title of his speech:
“I’m the Luckiest Man I’ve Ever Met.”