Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Former Tigers manager Leyland honored at downtown Detroit event

DETROIT — Jim Leyland is happy to help Brad Ausmus in any way the new Detroit manager wants.

Ausmus is replacing Leyland in the Tigers’ dugout next season, but the outgoing skipper is remaining part of the organization, and he’s already had a chance to visit with his successor a bit.

“He asked me a few questions about the team and the personnel. Obviously, I answered them. I mean, I work for him, basically,” Leyland said. “I’m with the organization. I’ll do everything I can to help him out, but I’m not going to stick my nose in it.”

Leyland was at Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit on Monday night, being honored as part of an event hosted by best-selling author Mitch Albom and federal Judge Damon Keith. “Detroit Legacies in Black and White” was a fundraiser for Detroit charities through S.A.Y. Detroit and The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.

Leyland stepped down as Detroit’s manager after this season, and the Tigers hired Ausmus to replace him. Like Leyland, Ausmus is a former catcher — but he has almost no managerial experience.

“He’s everything that you’ve been hearing about and reading about. He was a very tough, hard-nosed player — very smart catcher, very energetic. I think he’s going to do great,” Leyland said before the event. “He’s going to go through some growing pains at times because he hasn’t managed, but he’s so bright. He’s very smart. ... He’s his own man. I can tell that already. He’s going to do things his way, and that’s the way it should be. I think they’re really in good hands.”

Leyland, meanwhile, is adjusting to a new role with the Tigers. Several of them, actually.

“I’m going to go to the winter meetings here in December,” he said. “I’m going to be spending a little bit of time in spring training — I don’t know how much. I’m going to maybe go around to the minor league clubs, and look at some of our prospects — possibly go out toward trading deadline to look at a player. So I’m kind of going to be like a jack of all trades, master of none.”

Gene Lamont, Leyland’s bench coach, is staying on to work for Ausmus in the same capacity, and pitching coach Jeff Jones is coming back as well. Lloyd McClendon, another member of Leyland’s staff, was hired to manage the Seattle Mariners.

Leyland is also hoping a few other members of his staff will find spots somewhere for 2014.

“This thing, it’s got a little way to go yet to work out perfect, but it’s almost perfect,” Leyland said. “Lloyd’s got a manager’s job. Gene’s coming back as the bench coach for two years, Jeff Jones coming back. If we can get (Mike) Rojas and (Rafael) Belliard and (Tom) Brookens placed, we’ll be happy.”

Leyland insisted he didn’t want too much of a fuss made over his departure or his accomplishments with the Tigers.

“I’m one of those guys that believes that I was hired here, I did my job here, and they paid me. And nobody owes me anything,” Leyland said. “Don’t get me wrong — it’s touching, it’s nice. But it’s not the stuff that I’m looking for. I’m not looking for any kind of accolades.”

Be that as it may, his eight years as Detroit’s manager will be remembered fondly. The Tigers went to the World Series twice and reached the postseason four times. They’ve won the AL Central the last three years.

Before Leyland arrived, the Tigers hadn’t made the playoffs since 1987.

“I think I was part of getting baseball active again,” Leyland said. “The flame wasn’t out, but the flame was low, and I think we got the flame burning again, and I think that I was a small, small part of that, and that’s the thing I’m proudest about.”

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