Tigers get Kaline, Horton for Draft
Franchise legends to head down to Orlando to represent team
Hall of Famer Al Kaline will join Tigers legend Willie Horton to help introduce the newest player to the Detroit organization as part of as the team's contingent at Major League Baseball's 2008 First-Year Player Draft next month in Orlando.
Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front office executives and baseball luminaries.
For the Tigers, those luminaries include two of the most recognizable faces of the franchise.
Kaline is known as Mr. Tiger by many who grew up following Detroit, an almost immediate star who is now in his 56th year in the organization. After spending his entire 22-year playing career in a Detroit uniform, he spent more than two decades as a commentator on Tigers telecasts before joining the front office as a special assistant in 2002. He has been an instrumental member of the organization since, playing a part in several of the team's most important decisions.
Kaline was one of the rare talents who never spent a game in the Minor Leagues, going directly to the big leagues in 1953 at age 18. Two years later, he was the youngest batting champion in American League history. By the time his playing career ended in 1974, he had overtaken Ty Cobb for a franchise record 2,834 games played, to go with 399 home runs, along with 3,007 hits and a .297 career batting average.
As in Kaline's day, the Draft wasn't yet around when Horton was a standout athlete at Detroit's Northwestern High School. The Tigers signed him at age 18 soon after his high school graduation. Two years later, in 1963, he broke into the Major Leagues, embarking on an 18-year career that included 15 seasons with the Tigers. He drove in 104 runs at age 22 in 1965, his first full big league season, and collected his first of seven All-Star selections along the way.
Both Kaline and Horton played critical parts on the Tigers' 1968 team that beat the favored St. Louis Cardinals in seven games to win the World Series.
Horton also serves the Tigers organization to this day as a special assistant. Beyond his involvement in the front office and the community, he has become a mentor for some of the Tigers' young players.
Joining Horton at the Draft will be team vice president/assistant general manager Al Avila, who plays a major role in the Tigers' Draft preparation, and Minor League operations assistant Avi Becher. The rest of the Tigers' Draft team will be based down the road at the team's Spring Training offices in Lakeland, Fla.
MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage on BaseballChannel.TV begins at 1 p.m. ET with a special ceremonial draft of former Negro Leaguers who will be on hand at The Milk House. The First-Year Player Draft follows at 2 p.m. with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively on BaseballChannel.TV, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo and David Rawnsley of Perfect Game USA.
Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.
Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.