OAKLAND — Torii Hunter caught the final out of Thursday's Detroit Tigers ALDS Game 5 win against the Oakland Athletics. He took a moment to relish it. So did his teammates. Then within 30 seconds, they had congregated at the pitcher's mound at O.Co Coliseum, everyone in a circle around Hunter.
"They always tell me to get in the middle," Hunter said.
Next the team brought its clubhouse celebration to the field, showing a national audience its victory dance and chant (watch the video above). If you think it looks like something a football team would do, you're right.
"We started it the last series in Chicago," Hunter said Thursday night, during the Tigers postgame champagne showers. "We were playing kind of flat. I was sitting in the cab, driving to the stadium and I said, 'You know what? I'm going to get a football mentality and that's what we did.' We did it in the clubhouse in Chicago and we won. We only lost four games since we've been doing that. We do it when we win."
It's fitting that it started in Chicago, because the Tigers ritual looks similar to the one that Walter Payton used to pump up his Chicago Bears teammates.
Hunter — the 38-year-old clubhouse leader for the Tigers, who played football many years ago in high school — explained what goes on during the Tigers dance:
"I say, 'Bring it down,' and we scream. When I go to my head, we do it again. When we go to my leg, we do it again. Then we all raise our hands up."
Hunter's teammates, such as starting pitcher and Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer, bought in.
"We get ourselves in the mindset that that were going to bring it to them," Scherzer said. "We weren't going to be chased down. We're going to chase you down."
That sounds very football-ish too. Before you try this at home, kids, be warned that the Tigers are verbalizing a lot more than grunting and growling.
"A lot of four letter words," Scherzer says. "So we probably can't really be saying it."
If the Tigers — who are now going to the ALCS to face the Boston Red Sox — keeping winning, their fans probably won't worry too much.