DETROIT -- As the holiday season approaches, the Tigers wrap up the year with plenty to be thankful for, on and off the field.
Tigers employees took a day away from work last week to give back to their community, volunteering to help pack and prepare meals for needy families at Forgotten Harvest in Oak Park in what has become an annual tradition. Next week, many Tigers front-office folks will continue another tradition of treating local children and teens to a holiday feast and Christmas shopping spree.
It's a fitting cap to a year's worth of activities from Tigers employees to players to the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities.
While Michael Fulmer wowed fans and teammates on his way to American League Rookie of the Year honors, he also provided a special day for area children when he took part in the Tigers' annual Fantasy Camp for Kids. The youth baseball clinic, conducted in partnership with the Miracle League of Michigan, gives special-needs children the chance to take the field with some of their favorite players, including Fulmer, fellow Tigers pitcher Kyle Ryan and super-utility player Andrew Romine.
The camp contributes to an effort Fulmer has helped from his hometown. When Major League players voted him the winner of the MLBPA Players Choice Award for AL Outstanding Rookie earlier this month, Fulmer received a $25,000 grant from the MLB Players Trust for the charity of his choice. Fulmer chose Wings, a community for special-needs kids and adults in Fulmer's hometown of Edmonds, Okla.
Fellow Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander continued his long-running effort to honor veterans for their service while helping them get any help they might need. Earlier this month, his Wins for Warriors Foundation joined in Detroit's Veterans Day festivities with a Vets Fest celebration to honor local military families and a four-mile run that raised money for the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition to help veterans and their families while allowing runners to dedicate their run to individual veterans and servicemembers.
"Luckily, I've gotten to a point in my career where I can give back, and that's how this all started," Verlander said. "I wanted to give back, and I know I wouldn't be here playing this game in this great, free country if it weren't for these great men and women overseas protecting our rights here at home."
Another Tigers star, Miguel Cabrera, continued his efforts to help expand opportunities for kids to play baseball in Detroit as well as his native Venezuela and his offseason home in South Florida. His annual Keeping Kids in the Game event at Comerica Park raised more than $250,000 for children's health and youth baseball.
Other Tigers gave their time and effort toward causes that hit close to home for them. Left-hander Matt Boyd grew up with asthma and was hospitalized several times as a kid, so he spent part of his season visiting kids at Children's Hospital of Michigan's Asthma specialty clinic. He also struck up a friendship with patient Karai Moore, a 12-year-old athlete who had his left leg amputated to combat a rare, life-threatening infection.
Reliever Mark Lowe, a Type 1 diabetic, quietly spent time during the season meeting children dealing with diabetes. The big right-hander also lent his name and resources to several related charities, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers Foundation awarded more than $600,000 in grants for youth baseball and other causes. It also donated more than $1.5 million in Tigers tickets and hosted youth baseball programs that serve more than 10,000 children, while launching a statewide baseball-themed leadership program scheduled to be distributed to nearly 100,000 students.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.