DETROIT -- Mention the word bullying
and look at Phil Coke's intimidating stature on the mound, and the first reaction would be that he probably pushed people around when he was growing up.
In reality, it was the opposite. And now that Coke is in a position to make a difference, he's speaking out against bullying.
Coke spent part of the Tigers' off-day on Monday speaking before Attorney General Eric Holder's Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, which held its final public hearing this week.
"There's just things that can and should be done instead of turning a blind eye to it," Coke said on Tuesday. "Light is being shed on it, and it's for a good reason. And things that I heard yesterday, like school shootings, it comes down to the kid having an issue because he was picked on by a group of kids, so he took matters into his hands. There's no reason for that to happen, none. That's an extreme case, but on a day-to-day basis, we can keep that kind of stuff from happening if we're just willing to pay a little more attention."
Coke was subjected to bullying in high school and got into trouble for defending himself. Some of the bullying was as simple as making fun of his name. Other incidents were physical.
"Trying to rip my underwear off, throw it up in a tree because I was a freshman, that kind of stuff," he said. "We all went through something of that nature, but at the same time, I don't know if there's really room, because I almost got in a fistfight defending myself, because I had five or six football players I was fighting off. It was a group of friends, but they were all upperclassmen, so they had the age factor on me.
"Whatever they had gone through when they were freshmen, people like to pass on the tradition, but at the same time, you're not really passing on a tradition. You just want to get retribution. People can take that stuff too far."
The task force is part of Holder's Defending Childhood Initiative to reduce and prevent kids' exposure to violence. The task force will present policy recommendations later this year.
Among those on the task force is Hall of Famer Joe Torre, who serves as co-chairman, and who threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's game against the Mariners. Coke served as his catcher.