Before Ben Verlander became a national baseball podcaster, he was an outfielder in the Tigers farm system for five seasons after being drafted by them in 2013. He even homered off his older brother, Justin, in a Minor League Spring Training game at Tigertown in ‘16. The younger Verlander still has a place in his heart for the Tigers, several of whom were Minor League teammates (Tyler Alexander, Derek Hill, Harold Castro, Gregory Soto, Joe Jiménez, Jason Foley and Spencer Turnbull among them).
Verlander, star of the Flippin’ Bats podcast, took a moment to talk about his budding career and his Tigers memories while catching up with the team at Dodger Stadium last weekend.
MLB.com: When you were playing, did you ever envision a career in media?
Verlander: No, never. I was a communication major [at Old Dominion] with a minor in sports management, so I guess it’s always in the back of your head. But to play baseball, you have to [think] there’s nothing else I’m going to do, there’s nothing else I want to do. But the second I finished up, man, I just never fell out of love with the game and I wanted to stay in it somehow. So here I am.
MLB.com: How did it come about?
Verlander: So I finished up and then moved back home to Virginia. I was just doing different stuff in Virginia for about a year, and I met my now-agent and had a few things come up, and that’s right when COVID hit. I was in limbo in Virginia for a good year and then he connected me with my now-boss at Fox Sports, who said to go meet him and asked if I wanted to do the World Series watch party for Fox Sports with Tino Martinez, Rick Ankiel and Nick Swisher. I came out here [to Los Angeles], ended up hosting that, had no idea I was going to be. I guess it went well, and I ended up signing a full-time job and moved out here in February of last year.
MLB.com: Do you ever think about the wild road here?
Verlander: Yes. Sometimes I just have to think about the journey. To be able to play five years professionally -- obviously not make it to the level I wanted to, but to make it to that level in a different way, it’s really cool. I had a live show every day at the World Series on the field. There are some moments I just step back and think about how cool it is.
Ben Verlander on MLB Network, with a signed Al Kaline jersey in the background.
MLB.com: Is there anything about your career, what you faced and how you handled it, that helps you in your role right now?
Verlander: Absolutely the relationships you create. It’s huge. I have my show at FOX now, and to have guys on, it helps playing the game and being able to talk to them that way. This is just a way-of-life thing. Nothing can prepare you for failure like baseball does. You fail, at minimum, seven out of 10 times; I was a little more than that. You have to figure out how to deal with failure, and if you don’t, it’s going to eat you up. So you get into this world, and I don’t want to say life seems easier, but not playing every day, you gather an appreciation. You still have that work ethic; there’s just not as much failure involved.
MLB.com: And the routine helps?
Verlander: Oh my God, I’m so routine-oriented, and that’s never changed. I would get into a routine when I was playing and do the same thing every single day. You finish up and it’s like, "OK, how can I continue with the routine? I need one." Athletes need to keep a routine. So I got into golf. I do the same thing every day when I go into the studio to record my show, just keep my routine going. I have to have a routine or else I’m going to lose my mind. You play 162 games in like 180 days. You have to have something.
There’s always something that I feel like I can be doing more. Even on my days off, I’m watching baseball and live-tweeting baseball or writing. There’s always something, and I want it that way. I need it that way. I’m doing what I love. If I wasn’t busy, I’d be doing something that I don’t love as much as baseball.
MLB.com: The interaction on social media, is that a natural extension for you?
Verlander: Something that’s been natural for me. Even as it grows, it’s a community of people, and I want it to feel like that. I don’t ever want it to feel like this is my glimpse into somebody else’s life. I want my social media to feel like this is a cool community that I’m a part of. And that’s why I feel like a lot of guys that finish playing get into the media industry were big leaguers and it’s a different mindset. I never made it quite to that level, but I have the experience of playing professionally. People don’t treat me like I was a big-leaguer, and rightfully so, but I have that experience, so it’s a cool dynamic that I just want to share with people. And hopefully that comes across.
MINOR LEAGUE UPDATE
Triple-A Toledo: The Mud Hens won three games in a row at Omaha, part of a five-game winning streak that ended Saturday. Zack Short went 3-for-3 with two homers and seven RBIs in a 14-0 rout Wednesday after hitting a solo homer in Tuesday’s series opener. No. 16 prospect Alex Faedo shined in his Triple-A debut in that same game Wednesday, tossing five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.
Double-A Erie: The SeaWolves won four of six games at Binghamton. No. 4 prospect Dillon Dingler hit a two-run homer Thursday, then added a go-ahead two-run double Saturday. No. 29 prospect Austin Bergner tossed five hitless innings with three strikeouts Friday, his only baserunner being a hit batter.
High-A West Michigan: The Whitecaps lost four in a row at home against Great Lakes before splitting Sunday's doubleheader. No. 28 prospect Keider Montero racked up five strikeouts over three innings of one-run ball Friday in his third start of the season.
Single-A Lakeland: The Flying Tigers rebounded from back-to-back rainouts in Tampa with a doubleheader split against the Tarpons on Sunday, salvaging two wins in a five-game series. Top pitching prospect Jackson Jobe struck out three batters over as many innings Sunday, allowing two runs on three hits in a no-decision.
This week’s Pirates-Tigers series again matches up two of the teams Jim Leyland managed for 19 of his 22 Major League seasons. Which season was Leyland’s best in terms of regular-season record?
- A. 1991 Pirates
- B. 1992 Pirates
C. 2011 Tigers
- D. 2013 Tigers
A: Leyland's 1991 Pirates went 98-64 before falling to Atlanta in the NLCS.
FORWARDED FROM A FRIEND? SUBSCRIBE NOW
To subscribe to Tigers beat, visit this page and mark "Tigers Beat" from our newsletter list. Make sure you're following the Tigers or that they're checked as your favorite team.