Big League Stew

Jim Leyland gives surprising reply to angry mail from Tigers fan

David Brown
Big League Stew

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A dissatisfied Detroit Tigers fan figured out a sure-fire way to make someone from the team listen to his complaints.

Taking advantage of a man with a reputation for swearing a lot, Randy Rousselo wrote a nasty letter to manager Jim Leyland, using as much profane language as he could muster to get his attention.

The tactic worked, though Rousselo's grievances had nothing to do with Leyland's managing. Rather, the husband and father was angry because of a totally unpleasant experience his family had at Comerica Park one day in 2010 after they drove 200 miles from their home in Roscommon, Mich.

Leyland told reporter Tom Gage of the Detroit News that Rousselo's note was so bad, he couldn't help but respond.

"It was a brutal letter," Leyland said. "One of the worst I've ever received. I wanted to find out why."

So, a few days after the season ended, Leyland personally called the Rousselos and left a message on their answering machine that included his cell number.

"It was a really nice reply. Very down to earth about how important he knows money is to families. He didn't even swear back."

And they obviously came to an understanding once they talked, because Leyland also left the family tickets to a game this past Wednesday. The Rousselos responded back by sending Leyland homemade brownies.

A happy ending, right? That seemed to be Gage's take, but check out Rousselo's biggest gripes before passing judgment:

"What we were angriest about was that we drove down on a Sunday last year, and we arrived early hoping to watch batting practice and meet some players," Randy said. "Well, they don't take batting practice on Sunday. We also wanted our son to run the bases at the end of the game, but there was a long line, so we ducked into a souvenir shop. … By the time we got back out, we were told it was too late to get in line again, even though kids were still running the bases."

That's it? That's what got Rousselo so peeved, he wrote the team's manager — and its assistant general manager, Al Avila, who received a tamer letter? Nothing about a player refusing to sign an autograph, or toss a ball into the stands? No undercooked hot dogs? Ridiculous prices in the team store? None of that?

Happy ending or not, this whole thing was strange. {YSP:MORE}

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First of all, whatever happened to just enjoying the ballgame? Batting practice, kids running the bases — all of that stuff ought to be gravy. That the day didn't turn out how the Rousselos hoped was not Jim Leyland's fault, even if he technically has final say over when the Tigers take batting practice at home. (Batting practice is often skipped on Sundays as it's a day for the players to get some extra rest after a long week.)

But all of that is beside the point. Rousselo, who said he rarely swears outside of his letters to major league managers, acted childishly and got a prize for it. At least he even admitted so at the complimentary game:

"I'm almost embarrassed to be here," he said. "I got angry, wrote a nasty letter, and now I feel we're being rewarded for bad behavior."

Bingo. Leyland obviously was trying to do a nice thing for an upset fan, making an assist for public relations along the way. But what he did instead was cave to someone acting, admittedly, like a brat.

This must be what happens to someone who manages Barry Bonds.

No doubt, this wasn't the only letter Leyland has ever answered. And he's probably aided more authentically needy fans than we'll ever know. Regardless, it wasn't fair of Leyland to give so much of his time, understanding and free tickets to a fan with questionable grievances who essentially dared him to respond by pushing his well-known expletive buttons.

Leyland seems to ascribe to the saying that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Unless the fly is Leyland. Use all of the vinegar you can on that guy.

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