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The Legend Of Akil Baddoo Grows By The Day

Akil Baddoo celebrates
Duane Burleson/Getty

Have you heard the good news? The 22-year-old outfield prospect Akil Baddoo has risen from the low minor leagues and is here to … well, OK, he’s not going to save the Tigers from yet another season of mediocrity or worse. But he’s certainly made things more interesting over Detroit’s 3-2 start. And really, that’s all you can ask for.

Baddoo’s latest star-making moment came in the early evening on Tuesday, in the 10th inning of a bout with the dreaded Minnesota Twins. Initially entering the game as a pinch runner, the Rule 5 selection from the Twins’ own organization stepped up to the plate with two outs and the winning run just 90 feet away. On a 2-1 count, Baddoo knocked an inside pitch into just the right place, in front of the right fielder and onto the grass for the walk-off win.

Observant readers will notice that the graphic in the above video does not say “Amazing Story Begins!” No, it says “Amazing Story Continues!” because Akil Baddoo was well on his way to becoming a local legend even before this clutch base hit. It all started on his very first major-league pitch, all the way back on Sunday against Cleveland. (Also impressive is that, due to COVID-19, this was his first plate appearance that really counted since 2019.) The rookie showed no hesitation toward a juicy fastball at 89 down in the middle of the zone, and he took it for a ride to opposite field, delighting nobody in the stands more than his mom and dad.

And then on Monday, in what was otherwise a forgettable 15-6 Tigers loss, Baddoo continued to make good on the surprising promise he showed in the spring. With the bases loaded in the ninth inning, in only his seventh career MLB at-bat, Baddoo offered up a near-exact repeat of his auspicious debut, driving another very hittable pitch low in the zone beyond the bullpen wall in left field. It was maybe one of the most pointless grand slams in history from a purely mathematical point of view, but shut up about math and enjoy the salami:

“It’s something new every day,” Casey Mize, a much more heralded young Tiger, said after Monday’s heroics. “It’s unreal.”

This is nice! This really is nice. And, at the risk of sounding steamrolled and defeated by years of losing, this is all I really need from my hometown team. The last several years of Tigers baseball (and Red Wings hockey, and Pistons basketball…) have been just this endless slog of losing where the organization doesn’t feel much urgency to put out an entertaining product, and the players seem completely overmatched, and the list of reasons why I should tune in and try to enjoy a game are pretty much nonexistent, because the odds aren’t in my favor that I’m going to have fun checking them out on any random night. The Tigers are more than likely going to finish fourth or fifth in the standings again this year, and I’ve made peace with that, but at least for now I’ve got Akil Baddoo making magic every day.