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January 29, 2013

Tigers take a moment to honor Holocaust victims on caravan tour

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Tigers take a moment to honor Holocaust victims on caravan tour
From left: Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, bench coach Gene Lamont, manager Jim Leyland, museum board member Stephen Grant, FOX Sports broadcaster Rod Allen, museum board member Adam Grant and museum Executive Director Steve Goldman share a moment after the Detroit Tigers presented the Holocaust Memorial Center with a commemorative jersey.
Tigers Manager Jim Leyland answers a question from the crowd Jan. 24 during a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Campus.
 

FARMINGTON HILLS — The usually solemn space inside the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Campus in Farmington Hills was made a little more jovial as members of the Detroit Tigers organization stopped by for a visit last week.   

The appearance was part of the annual Tigers Caravan, a series of meet-and-greet events around metro Detroit to get baseball fans amped up for the upcoming season. Members of the team appeared at the Palladium 12 Theater in Birmingham, Hockeytown Authentics in Troy, DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and at Royal Oak Middle School, among other places.

At 1:30 p.m. Jan. 24, Tigers manager Jim Leyland; President, CEO and General Manager David Dombrowski; bench coach Gene Lamont; hitting coach Lloyd McClendon; and Fox Sports Detroit broadcaster Rod Allen arrived at the museum to greet media and other guests of the special private event.

There to welcome the esteemed baseball figures were museum board member Stephen Grant and Executive Director Steve Goldman, who jokingly remarked he had “mixed feelings” about the Tigers visit.

“I’m new here, and I grew up in Boston with the Big Green Monster,” said Goldman, getting laughs from the crowd.

Afterward, museum docent Donna Sklar shared a brief history of the Holocaust, noting that more than 6 million lives were taken as part of the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War II. She noted that the purpose of the museum is not just to mourn the past, but to teach valuable lessons to future generations.

Goldman agreed, saying it’s admirable that the Tigers chose the Holocaust Memorial Center as one of the caravan stops, drawing attention to the museum and its mission.

“I think it shows the corporate citizenship of the Detroit Tigers organization — that it recognizes places that may be fun and exciting for everybody, but also places that teach and bring a lesson,” he said. “We know that true baseball fans always have hope, and hope is the ultimate message here at the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus.”

Allen, Dombrowski and McClendon all fielded questions from the crowd. McClendon spoke on what an asset player Miguel Cabrera is to the Tigers, especially noting Cabrera’s Triple Crown win during the 2012 season, while Dombrowski discussed how there is no one team in the league for the Tigers to beat — each game is equally important.

“There’s a lot of good clubs in the league. Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to see who the best club in the National League is again, come late October,” said Dombrowski.

The group was then taken on a brief tour of museum attractions, like the Eternal Flame, honoring those murdered at the hands of the Nazis, and an authentic Holocaust-era boxcar, used to illustrate the way hundreds of Jewish people were transported for days without food or water to concentration camps.

Afterward, the Tigers had a presentation of their own to share with museum staff. Dombrowski unveiled a commemorative plaque to be dedicated to the center. The plaque, which encases a Tigers jersey, reads:

“This jersey is presented to the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus by the Detroit Tigers, in memory of those who perished and survived the Holocaust and in recognition of the Holocaust Memorial Center’s contribution to maintaining an open and free society.”

“Well, this is history. This is educational stuff for us. I mean, I’ve never been out here. I thought this was very interesting. It’s a part of our history and it’s great to be out here,” said Leyland when the day’s presentation was through.

“You get to meet a lot of people you don’t get to meet during the season, when you’re in your uniform and you’re working. You don’t really get to rub elbows with the people and actually get to meet them. So these kinds of events like this really work out good because they see that we’re pretty normal, they’re pretty normal — it’s kind of neat, really.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.