Detroit Tigers Welcomed Back To Lakeland With 74th Annual BBQ
by James Coulter
The Detroit Tigers returned once again to Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland to commence their spring training with the 74th Annual Tiger BBQ.
Nearly 800 people arrived to Joker Marchant Stadium for a chance to eat good old-fashioned barbecue, including pulled pork, ribs, chicken, and shrimp, along with all of the “fixins” such as potato salad, cole slaw, and macaroni salad.
For the past 74 years, the Detroit Tigers have traveled to Lakeland for their spring training; and each and every year, the city has shown their gratitude for the team with an annual barbecue.
“I think this is all due to Lakeland’s hospitality,” said Jackie Johnson, Senior Vice President of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce. “We appreciate the economic impact that the Tigers bring from the community. So we are more than happy to welcome them back and show how much we appreciate them being here.”
The Detroit Tiger do not merely attend for spring training. They remain in Lakeland year-round, Johnson said. They also help out with the local community with various organizations. Even then, their spring training proves to be a real boost to the local economy.
“Spring Training provides the State of Florida with an estimated economic impact of $753 million each year,” reported Visit Central Florida. “In Lakeland, that translates to approximately $45 million—last year bringing 111,561 fans to the games at our newly renovated Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. The majority of these fans are from out of state—bringing new money into our area!”
Matthew Clark, Chair of the Lakeland Chamber Board, appreciated the turnout that evening, as it proved that the local community appreciates everything that the Detroit Tigers does as far as economic impact and local entertainment.
“We are north of 800 people with a great crowd of Tiger players and fans and chamber members and people from the community,” he said. “I think it [the barbecue] meets expectations. We have a great crowd, great turnout.”
Al Avila, the current Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Detroit Tigers, consider Lakeland their “home away from home.” He also appreciates the local community and hopes that he and his team will continue to train there for years to come.
“I have been coming here [to the event] for 18 years, and it is always a great time,” he said. “We love it here, we appreciate here very much…let us have fun this spring training, the Tigers will do better, and we will win games for you.”