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Baseball will miss Leyland

matt examiningsports

Major League Baseball is losing a gem.

Longtime baseball guy Jim Leyland announced his retirement as the Tigers’ manager this week, ending a 50-year run as a player and manager in pro baseball.

I’ve always enjoyed Leyland. In a dwindling world of old-school coaches and managers, Leyland was as old school as they came.

He was tough as nails and demanded a lot from his players, but was also the first to stand up for them.

“He really cares deeply about his players,” said Tigers’ utility player Don Kelly in an ESPN.com story. “When you go out there, the way he treats you, you want to run through a wall for him, go out there and get a win. That’s the way he treated me, he treated everybody like that.”

The 68-year-old Leyland, a native of Perrysburg, always wore his emotions on his sleeve. I laughed when he said during his retirement press conference that he had promised himself he was not going to get emotional, only to get choked up a few minutes later when talking about his memories of managing.

His leadership style was brilliantly described by Detroit Lions’ football coach Jim Schwartz this week. Schwartz compared Leyland to a captain of a ship.

“I think the hallmark of his managerial style would have been the same hallmark if he would have been that ship’s captain,” Schwartz said. “He would have been up at the helm probably smoking a cigarette. It would have been like 20-foot swells, hurricane coming in and he wouldn’t even bat an eye. Everybody on the crew would have looked up and said, ‘Hey, things are going to be OK.’ That’s why I have so much respect for him.”

As a member of the media, it also made me feel good when, at the end of his press conference, he apologized for being grumpy at times with the press and said, “I was there for you and you were there for me, and I appreciate that very much.”

Anyone with a true appreciation of what it takes to manage in the big leagues is going to miss Leyland.

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