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As the Detroit Tigers gear up for their season, members of the team gathered in Detroit to connect with local students. Over two days in January, manager A.J. Hinch, catcher Eric Haase and pitchers Matt Manning and Matthew Boyd visited Detroit Edison Public School Academy (DEPSA) and Western International High School.

At DEPSA, the Detroit Tigers hosted a pep rally for 4th and 5th grade students to promote two of the team’s free youth initiatives, Fun at Bat and Summer Slugger, presented by Comerica Bank.

Stemming from research of introductory youth sports programs, Fun at Bat focuses on character development, functional movement, active play, and fun. Summer Slugger, a digital learning program, targets foundational skills like spelling, vocabulary, and math skills.

The Tigers divided the DESPA students up into two teams, coached by Manning and Haase, and played a game of whiffle ball. Boyd answered students’ questions about education and tested their knowledge by asking them baseball-related math and reading trivia questions.

At Western International, the Tigers visited with the school’s softball and baseball players to discuss their journeys through the sport, the importance of education, then surprised the student-athletes with new baseball equipment and cleats for each player.

Hector Gutierrez, physical education teacher and assistant baseball coach at Western International, was excited students had the chance to see players on their hometown team and hear directly from them. 

“We preach to the student players all the time: ‘Talent can only take you so far. Hard work, dedication and discipline is going to help you make it,’” said Gutierrez, who is also an alum of the Western International baseball program. “Hearing it from Eric Haase, who they look up to and talk about often, you could see in their eyes, they’re thinking, ‘I can do it, too.’”