If you’ve been to a Tigers game at Comerica Park over the past few seasons you’ve almost certainly seen James Van Horn. You probably don’t know his name, but you’d recognize him as the “Eat ’em up Tigers” guy. He was a street busker/panhandler who stood outside of the park with a change cup, usually held in an Incredible Hulk hand, chanting “Eat ’em up Tigers” creating an infectious beat by jangling his change.
Sad news about him:
Witnesses are telling 7 Action News that two men well known to Tigers fans have been killed in a hit and run. The men were James Van Horn, who was known for his distinctive shouting of ‘Eat ’em up Tigers’ , and another man known as Dreadlock Mike … Witnesses tell 7 Action News they heard a crash at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning in the area of Gratiot and Russell, about a mile from Comerica Park. They say it appears Van Horn was pushing Dreadlock Mike down the street when they were hit by a vehicle that left the scene.
It makes me think about other unofficial team mascots, superfans, promotors and otherwise self-motivated ballpark fixtures. I’m guessing most parks have guys like these. Maybe motivated by enthusiasm for the game. Maybe they’re merely guys who hang outside the park because they’ve realized it’s not a bad place to collect some spare change. Maybe they’re embraced by the team, maybe the team wishes they’d pick a different corner. There are probably as many stories as there are guys like this.
But they definitely form part of the ballpark experience. And, sadly, many of us probably don’t appreciate them for what they add until they’re gone.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.