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August 15, 2012

Opening Day all over again

Impemba leads effort to bring sights and sounds of Opening Day to troops

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

The All-Star break has come and gone in Major League Baseball, and the summer heat is starting to serve as a solid parallel as to how hotly contested the playoff race will be in 2012.

With the schedule more than half over, the sights and sounds of Opening Day have certainly faded a bit in the minds of Tigers fans near and far.

Well, not all of them.

For the fourth consecutive year, television play-by-play announcer Mario Impemba, along with the Tigers, Major League Baseball Productions and Fox Sports Detroit, teamed up to present Operation Opening Day, a complete broadcast of the April 5 victory against the Boston Red Sox, free of charge to any active military personal at home or abroad. Impemba financed the production of the DVD, including mastering, packaging and all artwork. The Tigers pay the shipping costs.

“I’ve traveled all over the league for Opening Days, and I think it’s an unmitigated fact that with the deep, rich history here in Detroit, with more than 100 years of tradition, there’s no other Opening Day like it,” Impemba said. “It’s more than a baseball game here. It’s something woven into the sport fabric of this city. It’s an event.”

But for so many transplanted Tigers fans serving in the armed forces, it’s also an impossibility to attend.

While working on the west coast years ago, Impemba said he first realized the impact of Opening Day when he was speaking with reservists preparing for deployment.

“Many of them told me how tough it was not to see Opening Day,” he explained.

So in 2009, Impemba hatched the idea to launch Operation Opening Day.

Following that year’s game, 1,000 DVDs were put together and shipped out to any military personal who requested one totally free of charge.

“From one year to the next, we’ve tried to project how popular this really is, and the 1,000 mark has been a pretty good blueprint,” Impemba said. “We went through just about all of them that year and have printed roughly the same amount ever since.”

Impemba, a Macomb resident now in his 11th season calling Tigers games, said the feedback he and the Tigers have received from the project have more than made it worth the time, energy and money he’s put forth.

“We’ll get quite a few letters, from family members of service people or from troops themselves,” Impemba boasted. “That’s the most gratifying part of all this for me. These are men and women making the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country, and in a small way, I feel like we’re bringing them a little piece of home.”

Impemba said he plans to continue the tradition of putting together the DVD as long as the demand for it remains.

Anyone interested in obtaining the DVD for a family member serving, visit tigers.com/operationopeningday.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.