DETROIT -- Al Kaline was as surprised as anybody when the Tigers asked him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day to celebrate his 60th year with the team.
"I didn't realize [it had been that long]," Kaline said Thursday morning as he joked about warming up his arm Thursday morning. "I tried to tell them when they asked, 'Are you sure?'"
The Tigers signed Kaline in the summer of 1953. Because of the size of Kaline's contract, the Tigers had to carry him on the Major League roster for at least two seasons once he signed. He was good enough that he never saw the Minors.
Kaline got into broadcasting after he retired in 1974, and he then became a special assistant to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski a decade ago. He has been active in team dealings ever since.
"I really enjoy watching the game," Kaline said. "I think if I wasn't working, I probably would be down here watching the game anyway."
Kaline is 77, but he said being around the players during Spring Training and the regular season makes him feel younger.
"I enjoy being around them, listening to the new slang," he said. "I try to stay out of the way. I try to encourage them, and if they ask for my help, I try to give it to them. But I always go to the coach. I'm not one of those guys who says, 'You have to do it this way.'"