Profile: Detroit Tigers Third Baseman Brandon Inge




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His and Shani’s domestic tranquility has been upped by the one event that dislodged Shani from government: the births of their sons, Tyler, 6, and Chase, 3. 

“Her kids are her life,” says Inge, who doesn’t dispute that they’ve had the same effect on him. He even wears a permanent testament to his boys, one on each arm. The tributes are ink-black and written in script on each forearm, the product of a San Francisco tattoo artist who was recommended by well-decorated teammates Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry.

Tyler and Chase’s names unfurl like ornate snakes, in plain view each time he steps to the plate and raises his bat. They were applied during an eight-hour procedure at the Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco, where the team was staying during a weekend series against the Oakland Athletics in August 2009.

Above: Brandon Inge and his family (wife Shani, holding son Chase, and son Tyler, center, with dogs Buzz and Woody) share a light moment at their home in Saline.

Inge came to his room after the game, told his tattooist to go to work and, by 7 the next morning, was wearing the tributes to his sons that he had spent ample time and money ($2,000) pondering. His motivation was a boy named Tommy Shomaker, who, in 2009, was an 8-year-old waiting for a heart transplant at U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor (Shomaker got his transplant and today is doing wonderfully). Inge decided one day in June 2009, rather than award the standard autograph, he would ask for the signature of a boy he considered a hero. Tommy obliged, his name scrawled in big letters on Inge’s arm. That night, Inge hit a go-ahead home run in a 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Inge and Shani have for several years been Mott Children's devotees, much as late manager Sparky Anderson was transformed by the experience of kids whose challenged or shortened lives are among society’s great heartaches. Other youngsters at Mott Children's picked up on Tommy’s lead. Inge soon was wearing regular reminders of young patients who loved that the Tigers’ third baseman came to home plate with their names penned on his skin.

It was also noted by one Tyler Inge that Dad seemed to be honoring the names of kids who, wonderful as they might be, weren’t living at the same residence. Inge decided one of life’s blessings did not exclude the other; he would place Tyler and Chase on the same epidermal display as other youngsters.

The Mott Children's experience has been one reason why the Inges have fallen in love with this town and team, baseball issues aside. Shani might have temporarily relinquished government for motherhood, but her career melds with her causes, a prime example of which is the Family Hope Fund she founded. It’s an ever-expanding effort (one example: 60 Ann Arbor-area gas stations one day each week donate a penny per gallon to the cause) to provide families with serious hospital stays a means for paying treatment costs that might otherwise leave them without cash for utility and household expenses.

{C} Because of efforts made with and without Shani, Inge last autumn was presented with Major League Baseball’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. It’s noteworthy in that it honors a man whose deeds on and off the field inspire others.

{C} And it’s helpful to know about the electorate. The award is voted upon by players from both the American and National leagues.

{C} It’s all rather amusing. Inge, the subject of hard-core fan rancor, of endless debate within the Tigers camp, the man who absorbs ire with the same ease he accepts hot-shot ground balls, isn’t such an issue, really. He plays baseball. He’s a husband. A father. He visits kids he wishes had a smattering of the blessings he enjoys.

{C} Now, there’s a guy we should all be arguing about. Or, maybe somewhere out there in a baseball world rife with flaws, there’s a better reason to squabble.


Henning is a sportswriter and columnist at The Detroit News. E-mail: editorial@hourdetroit.com.

 


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