DETROIT -- Jim Leyland made plenty of flights from Detroit to Kansas City for a big series in his career. His first Tigers team clinched the franchise's first postseason berth in two decades in 2006. Six years later, his Tigers clinched their second straight American League Central title on the field at Kauffman Stadium.
Tuesday was different. As he changed planes at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Leyland was on his way to Kansas City as an onlooker. He's working this series as part of the Major League Baseball contingent. But he's admittedly a little bit of a supporter, too. His managerial days are done now, but Mets manager Terry Collins, his former bullpen coach from his Pirates days, has a chance to achieve the greatest feat of his career.
Their backgrounds were similar, even before Leyland added him to his coaching staff in Pittsburgh. Neither made it to the big leagues as a player, toiling in the Minor Leagues as catchers -- Collins reached Triple-A, Leyland topped out at Double-A. Both spent more than a decade managing in the Minors looking for a chance in the big leagues. Leyland owed his big league opportunity to Tony La Russa adding him to his coaching staff in the early '80s; Leyland paid it forward when he saw what Collins was doing at Triple-A Buffalo.
"You could tell he just had a passion for the game," Leyland told MLB.com's Anthony DiComo in an interview Monday. "He just had a real feel for it. You could tell even back then he wanted to pursue a career in it -- a long career in it. You could tell he wanted to accomplish something. And obviously, he's done that."
Collins wears No. 10 in honor of Leyland. Now, Collins could become the first former coach under Leyland to win a title.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.