Nate McLouth hasn't given anyone much reason to cheer this year, but he will hear some applause at Comerica Park this weekend.
The reserve outfielder, hitting .170 entering Thursday night's game, will play in his home state of Michigan for the first time when the Pirates travel for a three-game interleague series with the host Tigers beginning today.
“I've never played there,” he said. “I'm excited. It's the team I grew up watching in the state I grew up in. It will be cool.”
McLouth, 30, has played in 27 different major league ballparks in seven-plus seasons with the Pirates and Braves but never in Detroit. He grew up in Whitehall, Mich., along Lake Michigan, about 3 1⁄2 hours northwest of Detroit. His family members were devout Tigers fans, especially his father, Rick, who will be among the many family and friends at Comerica this weekend.
“They have been looking forward to that since the beginning of the season and we first saw the schedule,” McLouth said.
Tiger Stadium was the first big league ballpark McLouth ever attended. He grew up rooting for Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Kirk Gibson.
“They were pretty good back then,” he said.
McLouth was, too. He was named Michigan's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2000 at Whitehall High School. He remains No. 8 all-time nationally with 180 career stolen bases (in 181 attempts) in high school. He turned down a baseball scholarship to Michigan to sign with the Pirates as a 25th-round draft pick.
Returning to Detroit is also special for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. He grew up in central Michigan and was a fan of the Tigers and Hall of Fame slugger Al Kaline.
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7930.