|(Photo courtesy Tigers and Mud Hens fan Toshi Endo)|
TOLEDO — To Brandon Inge, the tale of a regrettable incident near the visiting dugout in a minor league game at Fifth Third Field in Toledo Tuesday was less about what actually happened than about how it appeared to the other fans around.
"It was just an agitated fan that took it a little too far. That’s all," the former longtime Tigers player said before Wednesday's game against the Toledo Mud Hens, the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate. "It happens."
The fan was reportedly throwing peanuts at Inge, and got himself into a verbal altercation with Inge's current teammates on the Indianapolis Indians. One of those teammates, Jerry Sands, was suspended one game by the International League
for trying to enter the stands. The fan was eventually escorted out of the park.
[The Toledo Blade's Hens beat writer John Wagner has first-day and second-day coverage of the incident.]
"That stuff is unfortunate. You can’t avoid it. There’s always going to be a couple idiots at every game. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can handle it the best you can, and I think we did," said Inge, a veteran of 12 big-league seasons, including 1,408 games with the Tigers.
"To be honest, there’s so many times a player won’t acknowledge some of the stuff that is going on where a normal person is going to want to fight. Put it this way, I’d say 80 percent — when you go on the road — of people that are sitting close to where you’re going to be during the game are not there to applaud you."
A father of two himself, Inge was more worried about how the situation impacted the kids in the stands around the incident. Noticing a couple of scared looks, he made sure to try to smooth it over as best he could.
In short, his paternal instinct kicked in.
"To be dead honest with you, yeah. I have two kids of my own and I know the face. I know the face of a kid that’s scared. And that man was definitely scaring those kids around that area. It was no big no deal. Everything was handled very professionally. The Mud Hens handled it professionally and I think we handled it as professionally as we could," Inge said.
"But when you see a big group of rather large baseball players standing over the side of the dugout, sticking up for one another, kids that are sitting near that area are probably going to be a little freaked out. A little scared. I noticed that immediately. There were probably five or six kids that were 10 years old or younger sitting in that area. I talked to Z (Mike Zagurski), one of our pitchers there, and I asked him to hand me the ball bag. I called all the kids over and said, ‘Don’t worry about anything. Everything is fine. There won’t be any harm on anyone. Sorry for disrupting you and enjoy the game.’ I made sure they were alright.
"It seemed like they kind of calmed down. My biggest fear is that a kid would leave this experience and think differently of ballplayers. We’re just big kids, so I didn’t want them to feel like that. I gave them some balls and I think things were fine after that.
"You just don’t want to see a kid ... I actually saw a couple kids sitting by themselves, I’m sure their parents were nearby, and I saw them actually get up and move a couple seats back. They were just like, 'Wow, we need to move.' I didn’t want them to feel like that. So I pulled them over and gave them some balls. It turned to be I think really good."