DETROIT — In the waning moments of the Detroit Tigers’ 17-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, it appeared there were no more than a few dozen hardy fans still remaining at Comerica Park.
One, possibly booze-addled man let loose with a series of loud wolf calls that echoed through the stadium.
If this was a picture of what’s to come in 2018, it was not pretty.
The Tigers’ attendance has dipped in 2017 and will almost certainly dip more dramatically in 2018.
But Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said that shouldn’t change the fact that Detroit is a strong, tradition-rich baseball market.
Even with the team more than 30 games out of first place, the Tigers will still draw more fans — about 2.3 million or so — than any other team in the American League Central.
“This is a really good baseball town,” Ausmus said. “They love baseball, but they want winners. I don’t blame them. So do I. When you’re not winning, it’s not that they’re not fans of the Tigers, it’s just not as much fun to come watch a team lose. So they don’t. That’s pretty standard.
“But this is one of the best baseball towns that I’ve ever been in. Might be the best that I’ve been in. There’s an underlining pulse in this city that, unless you’ve lived here, people outside of Detroit or Michigan just don’t get it.”
Ausmus, who played for the Tigers during lean years in 1996, 1999 and 2000, is no stranger to seeing empty seats.
“We were losing,” he said. “But I will say there was always that underlying pulse. Opening Day was always madness. It was there. It was just waiting to bubble over.
“Starting in ’06 through last year, we’ve pretty much been winning a vast majority of the time and there were always butts in the seats and even on the road we were getting good turnouts.”
Ausmus said people outside the area don’t appreciate Detroit — as a baseball market or in general.
“They go, ‘Oh, Detroit? How’s that?’ And I go, ‘Actually, it’s pretty damn good,'” Ausmus said.
He’s confident when the rebuilding is over and the wins return, so will the fans.
“This rebuild could turn things around for years and this city could be buzzing,” he said. “That’s how it is in baseball. The Indians are just really starting to get fans back and they’re the best team in baseball and went to the World Series last year. It takes a little bit of time. I think Detroit will bounce back. You start winning in Detroit, and I think they’ll come back.”