LAKELAND, Fla. – Dreams are coming true for Detroit Tigers prospect Ben Verlander.
With his parents Richard and Kathy in the stands, the 23 year old took the field in the same game as older brother Justin Verlander, a star pitcher for the Tigers.
The 2013 draft pick out of Old Dominion University earned his first two major-league hits, going 2-for-2 during an appearance in spring-training action at Joker Marchant Stadium Thursday.
“They couldn’t be happier. They’re down here this week so it was really cool to get called up to play with my brother,” Ben Verlander said about his parents. “He (Justin) was done pitching and ready to leave, I came into the game late and he was watching my at-bat.”
Playing in a major-league game is one of many goals that have been reached by the left-fielder.
Verlander was an Atlanta Braves fan growing up, but his feelings changed after Detroit made the World Series in 2006.
“I fell in love with the Tigers, I fell in love with the fan base, I fell in love with everything about Detroit,” Verlander said before practice at Detroit’s training camp Friday. “To be drafted by them was really a dream come true.”
The communications major started his freshman year at ODU as a pitcher and didn’t switch to the outfield until part-way through his sophomore season. During his first full season hitting, the multiple award winner had a batting average of .367 through 53 games, hitting 11 home runs, and 37 RBIs.
Early into that season, the decision to switch to batting would prove to be the right one.
“The moment I realized I was making the right choices was in college, my junior year,” Verlander said.
While competing for a starting lineup position, the six-four right-handed hitter was given the chance to start every game in a weekend series.
He wasted no time proving himself, stepping up in a big way in the first game.
“I hit three home runs,” Verlander said, “It was like a, ‘this is what I’m supposed to be doing,’ kind of moment.”
With less hitting experience than most, the 14th-round draft pick believes the time spent on the mound, as well as watching Justin throughout his career, has helped him in the batter’s box.
“I do have a pitching mindset,” said the Maidens, Va., native, “I’m thinking to myself, ‘what I would throw here is this pitch, so maybe I’ll look for that.’ That is a big part of my game.”
As the younger Verlander, who first picked up a baseball at two years old, pursues remaining goals of making the major leagues and one day playing with his older brother as a starter in Detroit, he continues to raise the bar for himself, striving to improve every day.
It’s the little things that will help him get there.
“Every time I step in the batter’s box, the minor details that go into an at-bat, I’m learning from pitch to pitch.”
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