TigerFest moved to summer but Winter Caravan will roll on in January

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

A long-standing Tigers winter event, TigerFest, is no more in 2020. It will be replaced Jan. 25 by autograph sessions with Tigers players and with Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire at various locations in the downtown Detroit District, which borders Comerica Park.

Miguel Cabrera signs autographs during the 2019 TigerFest at Comerica Park.

A new summer TigerFest, with on-the-field fan events and activities, will replace the former winter party. A final date is pending but is likely to be held in late June.

The customary Tigers Winter Caravan, which features 30-plus players, coaches, and front-office personnel traveling to various sites in Metro Detroit and statewide, will continue as usual on Jan. 22-24. The caravan will also make standard stops at Tigers farm affiliates in Grand Rapids and Toledo.

The changes were announced Friday and were inspired, the Tigers say, for a single reason: Fans had consistently said cold weather was their most common problem with the January celebration, which typically kicks off a new baseball season in Detroit.

The specific sites for the Jan. 25 autograph sessions will be announced, the Tigers say, in coming days. But all the facilities will be indoor locations where fans can indulge in free autographs, handshakes, selfies, etc.

The Tigers are at the bedrock level of a rebuild that has seen them lose 98 and 114 games during the past two seasons. But they say box-office tumbles are not behind the switch from a winter to a summer TigerFest, and that frigid weather, and the difficulty to winter-proof Comerica Park for thousands of fans, led to realignment.

The Tigers released two statements Friday, from Gardenhire, as well as from Ellen Zeringue, Tigers vice president of marketing.

“Our players and coaches absolutely love coming back to Detroit to see the fans during offseason events like these,” Gardenhire said. “It doesn’t get much better than Winter Caravan, reminding you of the passion that baseball fans have here in Detroit and throughout the state of Michigan. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the favorite things we do all year.”

Zeringue said: “By moving TigerFest to the summer, fans will have brand new experiences that include access to the field, more seasonable weather and interactive games and activities that we simply can’t provide in January.”

The Tigers begin training camp in mid-February at Lakeland, Fla., where they have been stationed for more than 80 years.