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.
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.”
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.”
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.”