DETROIT—Calling it a far more important use of her time right now, Patti Leyland-Ford, daughter of 67-year-old Tigers manager Jim Leyland, made the decision this week to use some personal days at work to join the Tigers for the World Series and help her dad out around the clubhouse.
“Carlita normally helps look after him during the season, but this is a special moment for Dad, so I wanted to be here myself,” the 39-year-old mother of two told reporters. “It’s nothing too difficult, really: filling out his lineup card, making sure he takes his medicine, and helping him out to the mound if he wants to pay a visit.”
“He grumbles a bit,” she added. “But it’s for his own good.”
Patti, who also spent a month with the team last season after the Tigers manager fell down the dugout stairs in Oakland, was careful not to diminish her father’s work, acknowledging that “he’s still very sharp, but maybe just a little more forgetful than he used to be.”
For the most part, Patti has reportedly respected her father’s independence, only stepping in once in Game 1, to pull struggling reliever Jose Valverde in the seventh inning, when Leyland had gone into the clubhouse to look for a blanket.
“We all love Jim, but it’s no secret that he needs an extra hand, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of,” said pitching coach Jeff Jones, who noted that Jim’s poor eyesight would never have allowed him to notice that pitcher Justin Verlander was struggling to place his fastball the way Patti had. “Patti helps keeps the mood brighter, too. When Jim tried to tell us to get John Smiley up in the ’pen, we’re all thinking, ‘John Smiley hasn’t played baseball in 15 years.’ Patti helped us laugh it off, though, and said to get [Al] Alburquerque up, which was the right call.”
The Tigers skipper has received additional assistance around the dugout since the 2010 season, when visiting family members began to notice Leyland misplacing items around his office and making questionable assessments of the team’s outfield. Leyland’s wife and kids all emphasized, however, that Jim was still very much in charge of the Tigers, and any support was strictly provided in case of an emergency.
Family members were quick to point out that they were all very proud of the Tigers manager.
“You see that sparkle in his eye once that first pitch is thrown, and you know you can’t take this away from him,” Leyland-Ford said. “But at the same time, you watch him try to take the field with his pants on backwards, or forget that Delmon Young has an OPS against lefties nearly 200 points higher than he does against righties, and you know he just can’t do it on his own anymore."
Leyland-Ford’s husband, Ron Ford, went on the record Thursday saying he fully supports his wife taking some extra time to help her father, and noted that the Tigers were lucky to have her there making sure Jim eats and chooses a batting order using players on the team’s active roster.
“Sometimes I wonder if he would be better off in a little less stressful environment,” Ford said. “Managing a team in the World Series is a lot for somebody like Jim. I just think someplace like with the Royals or Astros might be a little more his speed.”