The Tigers have become a younger team since Leyland's first year in 2006, but Leyland -- despite a reputation as a veteran's manager -- seems to enjoy it.
"I'm really loving seeing [Andy] Dirks and [Brennan] Boesch and these new kids break in," Leyland said, "and that's how I know I've still got the fire. I can relate to those guys. I think they can relate to me. I know they know I'm old and I've been around, but I don't think they think of me as an old man. I hope they don't, because I can rap with those guys. I know how to talk them, I think. I'm proud of that."
His players might not use the same terminology, but they echoed the feeling. At age 26, Boesch is 40 years younger but said Leyland bridges the two-generation gap.
"He has a lot of energy," Boesch said. "He brings energy to the club every day. For me, his door's been open every day. I think having a son, too, at a similar age [helps]. I don't think he's that far removed from where we are as young players.
"A manager's job is to do what he needs to do to win the game. But I think what's best is also caring for the person. And I think I can speak for guys here that we're lucky to have that."
Leyland is the only manager that eight of his players have ever known in the big leagues, while others, including Justin Verlander, have come into the prime of their careers with Leyland at the helm.
"I think Jim and Dave [Dombrowski] have gone a great job since I've been here," Verlander said. "They've been together since I've been here, so I've really got nothing to compare it to, except to see the product they put on the field and the way Jim handles everybody in this clubhouse and what I hear other guys say when they come in. So I'm definitely excited."
Leyland still has the fire to manage for a lot of reasons, the chance to win foremost among them. If and when he loses that, he said, he won't be managing anymore, which is why he has no problem going year to year on his contract.
He still remembers what happened in Colorado, when he stepped aside after one season of a lengthy contract because it wasn't fun for him. He doesn't want that to happen again. Leyland doesn't think it will, but at 66, he doesn't want to risk it.
"If I did not have the fire, I would not be back next year, I can promise you that," Leyland said. "But I think this is going to be a good situation next year. We've got a good team. Right now, I've got my health."