The roar of Detroit Tigers fans will be heard throughout Metro Detroit this weekend as the team enters the American League Division Series against the Oakland A's.
As Fox Sports Detroit's voice for the Detroit Tigers, baseball announcer Mario Impemba has been with the team since the first pitch of the regular season. Patch reached out to the Macomb Township resident and ultimate Tigers fan to get his take on the team's rather rocky season, Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown and the spirit of fans who are holding their breath and crossing their fingers for a World Series appearance.
Patch: How does this season compare to last season?
Impemba: Last season the Tigers took control of the division much earlier. This year the race went to the final week of the season, so it was much more stressful. In the end it doesn't matter how you get to the postseason, only that you made it.
Patch: Did the team meet or exceed expectations?
Patch: Most fans probably feel that they did not meet expectations because there was so much hype after the Prince Fielder signing. Most thought that the Tigers would run away from the rest of the pack and that never happened. The bottom line though, is that the team met one of its first goals and that was to make the postseason.
Patch: What was it like to watch Miguel Cabrera go for the Triple Crown?
Impemba: Astounding. He is the greatest hitter I have covered. Winning a Triple Crown in baseball is extremely difficult for so many reasons, not the least of which is the pressure. He accomplished it in the middle of a pennant race as he tried to get his team to postseason at the same time. Not an easy task.
Patch: This could be a history-making season. What has it been like to watch these events unfold?
Impemba: It has been a lot of fun. Pennant races can be stressful for fans and everyone associated with the team, but it wasn't too long ago that the Tigers lost 119 games in a season. The franchise has come a long way in a short period of time and it has given baseball fans something to look forward to every year.
Patch: What were the season's rough patches?
Impemba: Well, the team struggled to put a consistent stretch of baseball together for an extended period of time. Injuries to Doug Fister, Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks contributed to that. It was frustrating to watch a talented team have trouble putting it all together. I think Jim Leyland did a fabulous job of keeping a steady hand and not letting the rough patches spiral out of control.
Patch: What is the tone in the stands? What do you expect from fans as the Tigers continue their playoff quest?
Impemba: The fans are fine now that the team is in the post season, but many of them jumped off the bandwagon when the team was struggling. It's a long season and sometimes we lose sight of that. In the end, there are no better fans in the game than those here in Detroit. Three million fans walked through the gates this year. That's pretty impressive.
Patch previously spoke with Impemba in April as the Tigers were just beginning their regular season. When asked about their World Series prospects then, he said:
"There are probably six elite teams in the American League, of which the Tigers are one. I don't think there is any doubt this team will win the division and they have enough talent to win it all. They will need to stay healthy. Injuries to Brennan Boesch and Al Alburquerque hurt their chances last year. With some breaks and health, hopefully the World Series will return to Detroit."