By John Lowe Detroit Free Press Sports Writer April 29, 2013
Like many Tigers over the years, outfielder Larry Herndon began his career elsewhere but came to regard Detroit as his baseball home.
Herndon returned home Sunday night. As part of Negro Leagues Weekend at Comerica Park, he received the Detroit Tigers African American Legacy Award in a pregame ceremony on the field.
“I ended up where I was supposed to be once I got here,” Herndon said in a news conference. “From the first year on, I felt like I was a Tiger. It was the kind of city I wanted to be in. And I’m still in the uniform.”
Herndon, 59, is in his ninth season as hitting coach at Class A Lakeland. He worked with Avisail Garcia at the start of last season. By October, Herndon was sitting behind the plate at Comerica Park, watching Garcia throw out Coco Crisp at the plate from rightfield for perhaps the biggest out in the Tigers’ first-round playoff series against the Athletics.
“I had worked with Avisail, and to see him grow into a big leaguer, it’s kind of hard to describe the feeling,” Herndon said.
Ex-Tigers Larry Herndon, left, and Dave Bergman take in the painting of Herndon in a pregame ceremony before Sunday’s game at Comerica Park. / Julian H. Gonzalez/DFP
Herndon had played six years for the Giants when the Tigers acquired him after the 1981 season for pitchers Mike Chris and Dan Schatzeder. He didn’t have any divided loyalties in last year’s Tigers-Giants World Series. “Tommy Lasorda used to say he bled Dodger Blue,” Herndon said. “I knew what I bled: Tiger Blue.”
The Legacy Award that Herndon received is sponsored by the Black McDonald’s Owners and Operators Association.
“Very honored, and it means a lot because of the guys who have gotten the award before me,” Herndon said. “They set a good example, and I tried to follow it.”
The award’s previous winners are former Tigers Gates Brown, Jake Wood and Earl Wilson.
A TIGER KILLER: Remember Eduardo Escobar? He’s the Twins backup shortstop who hit the two-run ninth-inning double off Phil Coke to beat the Tigers in the second game of the season.
Escobar has turned into the most interesting player in the AL Central who doesn’t have a full-time job. As he arrives at Comerica Park with the Twins tonight, the switch-hitting Escobar is batting .438. He made his first start of the season at third base Saturday in place of Trevor Plouffe, who has struggled defensively. On Sunday, Escobar made his sixth start of the season at shortstop.
THE ROTATION: With two open dates next week, right-hander Rick Porcello will be skipped for a turn, manager Jim Leyland said. Thus none of the other four starters will go extra long between starts. Next week, the Tigers will be off Monday, play in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday, and be off Thursday.