Home Plate event at Tigers’ game brings hope to locals
A local group consisting of 43 people took part in this year’s Home Plate event, an outreach organized by Baseball Chapel Leader to the Detroit Tigers, Jeff Totten, on Saturday, April 27 at Comerica Park. Totten leads SCORE Ministries, which provides encouragement, support and accountability in the service of Jesus Christ through relationships and ministries developed since 1986.
“It was just a beautiful day and an inspirational event,” said Jim Palmer, who worked with Pastor Alan Maki at the First Baptist Church of Tecumseh to coordinate a group that included several men from the Lenawee County Mission, which his son, Pastor Steven Palmer, leads. Palmer also served many years as a youth baseball coach in the Tecumseh community and is often referred to as “The Hat.”
“We had wonderful seats with a direct view of the bullpen, scoreboard and home plate,” said Palmer. “This event has been taking place since 1987 when former Tigers’ pitcher Frank Tanana was the only speaker.” This year’s speakers included: Donnie Kelly, Tigers’ Outfielder and Infielder; Tim Hudson, Braves’ Pitcher; Matt Tuiasosopo, Tigers’ Outfielder; Ramon Santiago, Tigers’ Infielder; Darin Downs, Tigers Pitcher; Torii Hunter, Tigers’ Outfielder; and Tanana. More than 8,000 people attended.
During the event, the players talk about the role faith has played in their storied careers. “Matt Tuiasosopo talked about how he sent an Email to the Tigers’ management team requesting an opportunity to try out for the Tigers at spring training,” Palmer related. “He was a free agent, and at spring training this year, he led Tigers home runs and hits, so they had to keep him. He was pretty emotional when talking about thanking God for what he gets to do. He also played in the game Saturday against the Braves and scored a run, getting an RBI. He’s just a tremendous athlete.”
Ramon Santiago, who is a switch-hitter, speaks both Spanish and English and accepts his role gratefully as a utility player for the Tigers. Darin Downs, a left-handed relief pitcher, shared the story of his struggles in life, including how he had to break away from a “high life” of what he thought a baseball player should be living.
“It was beautiful to hear him give his testimony of how the Lord saved him from drowning in despair,” Palmer said. He was especially impressed with Torii Hunter.
“He’s always smiling and has this happy attitude,” said Palmer. “He just has this tender, sweet heart, and he told of how he grew up in Arkansas. His father was out of the picture early, and his mother made him stay in and read the Bible, which was an early influence on his life.” Hunter was later drafted by the Minnesota Twins and later played for the California Angels, who at one point, just decided not to resign him.
“Torii told his agent that the one place he still wanted to play was Detroit, because he was sure they were going to win the World Series and he wanted to be a part of that,” said Palmer. “Because of his attitude, he’s always encouraging other players. He’s just a tremendous ball player on and off the field. He doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, but he was kind of the highlight of the program on Saturday.”
Palmer said it was kind of like having church in the ballpark on Saturday morning prior to the Braves game when Frank Tanana took the podium.
“He’s still very popular and everybody in the stands was just mesmerized by him, he’s always showing so much joy and happiness,” said Palmer. “He just gently expresses his soul and body and love for Jesus Christ.”
Palmer said the group was able to get tickets to the event, which included the event itself, seeing the game, a $5 voucher toward food and a poster with player autographs on it beneath a cross fashioned from a flattened baseball skin, only by purchasing early. Each year’s event is publicized in January prior to the spring activity.
“After the program, we were able to go behind home plate and meet some of the speakers,” said Palmer. “It was just a beautiful day, a beautiful occasion, and the guys from the Mission also had a good time and were so attentive and respectful.”
For more information on the event visit HomePlateDetroit.Org.