Tigers receive AL championship rings
Club presented with hardware in on-field ceremony Wednesday
DETROIT -- It may not have been a secret on the scale of blueprints of the Pentagon or the recipe of hot dogs at Comerica Park, but the design of the Tigers' 2006 American League Championship rings remained a mystery right up until a ceremony preceding Wednesday's game against Toronto.
The Tigers knew they would receive some sort of hardware after defeating Oakland in last October's American League Championship Series, but none of them knew what the actual ring would look like until 30 minutes before the first pitch of their 10-9 win over the Blue Jays, when owner Michael Ilitch, general manager David Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland presented a ring to each player in an on-field ceremony.
"I don't really know; they [didn't] tell us why [they didn't unveil the design] -- maybe they just didn't have them in on time," Brandon Inge said. "Maybe they wanted the first time we see them -- it's collectively as a team, which makes a lot of sense. You don't want to give one guy his and let him see his [ring] before another [player]. It should be like that, they should get the same enjoyment as everyone else."
The 50 players and coaches in attendance who were on the Tigers' roster at some point during 2006 each did share their enjoyment, as a diamond-laden ring was presented to the players and staff in alphabetical order.
The ring was made by Intergold, Ltd., a company that has previously made rings for MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, WNBA and CFL champions, and it features 10 diamonds -- one for each World Series trip the Tigers have made in their existence -- on one side while each player's name is also etched onto the side.
Diamonds also dominate the face of the ring and outline a navy blue Old English "D" in the center.
On the inside of the ring, the phrase "nine full innings" is inscribed, a popular message that Leyland often tells the team.
"I'm going out tonight. I'll have my hand up when I order everything," said Leyland, who has over 10 rings from his time spent as a manager in both the Major and Minor Leagues. "I've never seen a ring as beautiful as this. I don't want to get all sentimental, and I don't want to take away obviously from my World Series ring, but I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful ring than this. I really don't."
The players were also impressed with the ring, and Todd Jones went as far to say "someone will have to cut my hand off to wear it."
"When I saw this thing, I almost started crying," Joel Zumaya said. "[It looks like] a World Series ring. Mr. Ilitch does a heck of a job of taking care of everybody. ... If we win the World Series this year, I can't even imagine what the ring is going to look like."
Seven players who received rings -- Brent Clevlen, Jack Hannahan, Kevin Hooper, Zach Miner, Ramon Santiago, Chris Shelton and Jordan Tata -- didn't make the Tigers' roster out of Spring Training but made the 60-mile trip from Toledo, Ohio, in time to participate in the pregame ceremony.
The players will all begin the season with the Mud Hens and will play their first game on Thursday at Louisville, Ky. They left Toledo at 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday and had to leave immediately after receiving their rings, in order to attend a team workout at 2:30 p.m.
"It's definitely all worth it, that's for sure. I'll take a busy day for getting a championship ring," said Hooper, who was called up last September and played in eight games. "We're all excited to be here, but we'll get [the ring] and head right back. This is the best place to be and we all strive to be back here in the limelight. I definitely plan on being back here."
Matt Stairs, who signed with the Blue Jays during the offseason, also received a ring after playing in 14 games with the Tigers last season. He jogged over from the visitors' dugout in a Blue Jays jacket and shared a quick exchange with Leyland before rejoining his new teammates on the first-base side of the field.
Other players who spent time with the Tigers and are now with other teams -- including Jamie Walker of the Orioles and Dmitri Young of the Nationals -- will receive their rings when Detroit makes a road trip to that city, Leyland said.
Now the Tigers can look forward to a regular pregame for Thursday's series finale against the Blue Jays after Monday's AL pennant ceremony and Wednesday's ring presentation.
"It's always good to have this stuff; you really have to take it all in, don't take it for granted, because things like this don't happen very often," Inge said. "You need to cherish it, but at the same time, you have to be good at separating what needs to be done and the enjoyment."
With a pregame forecast of rain or snow for Wednesday's game, there was some talk of a cancellation. But Leyland said the ring ceremony would have taken place on Wednesday regardless if the game was played.
"I think they want to get that behind us and I do, too," Leyland said.
And now the Tigers can put 2006 behind them, albeit with a large and shiny reminder on their finger, even if it doesn't fit everybody.
"I've never been a ring person, my fingers are too skinny," said Curtis Granderson, who gave the ring to his parents to have during the game. "Hopefully it looks all right. ... [If we get another ring this season] I may ask if they can give me a watch or something instead."
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.