Boesch heads home for Interleague opener

Boesch heads home for Interleague opener

DETROIT -- Brennan Boesch forged his Major League dreams at Dodger Stadium as a fan. He dreamed of returning as a player, but he probably couldn't have imagined it quite like this.

"The moment I decided I wanted to be a big leaguer," Boesch said, "I was sitting in the stands in Dodger Stadium. It's kind of come full circle that way."

The way Boesch has been hitting in his first four weeks in the big leagues, he's looming as a potential nightmare for Dodgers pitching whenever he gets into a game.

For Southern California natives Boesch, fellow rookie Danny Worth and veteran catcher Gerald Laird, the Tigers' Interleague opener at Dodger Stadium is going to be like a trip back to their childhoods. But it's a big deal for the rest of the Tigers, too, pitting one of the hotter teams in the American League against a Dodgers club that has played some of the National League's best baseball in May.

If they can take their momentum into the summer and creep to the top of their respective divisions, it could be a matchup of playoff clubs. As it is, it's an intriguing matchup to start off an Interleague slate in which the Tigers will face teams from every division of the Senior Circuit and have an opportunity to heat up in June.

Boesch isn't thinking that far ahead, of course.

"It's pretty neat," he said. "The beauty of this game is how dreams start with the kids so young. For me, it started so young. It's just something hard to describe. I just hope that the butterflies subside before game time."

Boesch's dreams began when he was a 5-year-old attending Dodgers games with his father, a local attorney who specializes in environmental law and entertainment litigation. The Dodgers were producing five straight NL Rookie of the Year Award winners, from Eric Karros to Mike Piazza to Raul Mondesi to Hideo Nomo.

"I don't remember what rookie it was," Boesch said, "but I just remember watching Piazza and seeing those guys out there and realizing, 'That's what I want to do. I'm going to do everything I can to get there.'

TIGERS' 2010 INTERLEAGUE SCHEDULE
Date Opp Record vs.
May 21 @ LA 4-5
May 22 @ LA
May 23 @ LA
June 11 PIT 11-10
June 12 PIT
June 13 PIT
June 15 WAS 5-4
June 16 WAS
June 17 WAS
June 18 ARI 8-13
June 19 ARI
June 20 ARI
June 22 @ NYM 5-4
June 23 @ NYM
June 24 @ NYM
June 25 @ ATL 8-4
June 26 @ ATL
June 27 @ ATL

"I remember watching the players and just dreaming for the opportunity that I'd get one day. I always wanted to be a Dodger. Going to play them is going to be pretty special for me."

Boesch grew up in Santa Monica, but he spent much more time on the diamond than at the ballpark. True to his dreams, he worked himself into a prospect, from his high school years in the area to college ball at the University of California, where the Tigers found him and used a third-round pick to grab him in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Fittingly, scouts compared him to a former Dodgers slugger, Shawn Green.

Tigers officials felt they had found a solid hitting prospect with a chance to make an impact. They weren't expecting this quite yet.

While Boesch has had to think about finding tickets for friends and family, manager Jim Leyland has to figure out how to find playing time for his red-hot rookie. With no designated-hitter slot available, Leyland can't fit Boesch, Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez into the same starting lineup. Somebody will have to go, though a foot injury to Ordonez on Wednesday could leave him hobbled heading into the weekend.

Boesch isn't the only Tiger who had California dreams. Worth was called up last weekend to help fill the void at second base, just in time to make the trip back to home. He was born in nearby Northridge before starring at Pepperdine University.

Laird has well over 500 Major League games under his belt, but he has never faced the Dodgers. He did, however, play at Dodger Stadium in a prep all-star game, back when he was a standout catcher at Westlake High School.

"I'm hoping Vin Scully talks about it when I'm at the plate," Laird said.

It'll mean a lot more to all of them if they can win. After going 5-2 against the Yankees and Red Sox last week at Comerica Park, Detroit has closed in on first-place Minnesota in the AL Central. The surge comes around the same time that the Tigers took command of the division last year with a seven-game winning streak.

That roll stopped last year when they lost two of three to the Rockies in mid-May, part of a 10-8 Interleague record. It was a respectable effort against the NL, unless it's compared to their 42-12 Interleague record over the previous three seasons.

The way their Interleague schedule looks next month, and the way they've played so far, it's hard not to believe they could go on another tear this summer. After this weekend's peek at the NL, the Tigers won't face the Senior Circuit again until June 11, when they'll start a nine-game homestand against the Pirates, Nationals and D-backs.

All three of those teams finished last in their respective divisions last year, and though Pittsburgh and Washington have shown plenty of improvement this season, they'll be young squads visiting a park where the Tigers have dominated so far. They could be in for a challenge with an ensuing road trip to meet the Mets and Braves, but they've fared well against both teams over the years.

Compare that to the Interleague slate facing the Twins, who unlike the Tigers will face the two-time defending NL champion Phillies as part of a road trip that includes the Brewers and Mets.

First things first, though. The Tigers are heading to Los Angeles, and Boesch is heading back to where his dreams began.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.