Throwing Curves

Nate Robertson
Photograph Courtesy The Detroit Tigers

He lives in metro Detroit year-round for the same reason he drives a 1998 Chevy Tahoe and wears eyeglasses that look as if they came from a welder’s helmet. Nate Robertson finds nothing particularly appealing about convention.

If he wants to jam his mouth full of bubble gum in the Tigers’ dugout and turn a stuffed face and incoherent speech into a playful rally cry, he will do that, too.

When he’s healthy, which was not always the case in 2007, he can also pitch a devil of a baseball game. It would explain why the Detroit Tigers in January signed the 30-year-old Robertson to a three-year contract extension ($21.25 million) that should keep him in Detroit through 2010.

He’s probably the most unmistakable of all Tigers pitchers when he steps on the mound. With his reddish beard and trademark eyewear, the left-hander, who is known as the team’s “bulldog,” looks more like a nearsighted Viking as he peers in to the catcher.

It’s what he sees about metro Detroit that also makes him unique. Robertson, his wife, Kristin, and the new baby son they were preparing to welcome at the end of February live in Canton, where they have resided since Robertson was traded to the Tigers from Florida in January 2003, a day after Nate and Kristin were married.

Kristin has been a flight attendant throughout for Spirit Airlines, a convenience given that Detroit is a Spirit hub. Nate, who grew up in Wichita, Kan., as the son of an Army master sergeant, has simply found in Detroit everything he could want, which would include tickets to Red Wings, Pistons, and Lions games, events he hits with regularity.

“I’m a Kansas boy, my wife’s from Florida,” he says, relishing the chance to zing teammates who can’t abide Michigan winters. “I don’t know why I can’t get some of those big, tough baseball players to stay up here.”