DETROIT -- Craig Monroe rushed into the dining room outside the press lounge at Comerica Park on Friday to greet Placido Polanco, his friend and former Tigers teammate of two-plus years. The two embraced as they spoke back and forth in Spanish, before Monroe, now an analyst with FOX Sports Detroit, switched to English to compliment Polanco on his salt and pepper beard.
The Dominican-born Polanco, who spent 4 1/2 of his 16 MLB seasons in Detroit, was back in town as part of the 12th annual ¡Fiesta Tigres! celebration, which aims to recognize the contributions of Latino players and coaches in the game of baseball.
Polanco, 41, said it always feels good to be back in Detroit. His favorite memory remains the Magglio Ordonez home run in 2006 that sent the Tigers to the World Series. But another proud moment for Polanco was his U.S. citizenship ceremony at Comerica on July 9, 2008, before a game against Cleveland.
A few years before that day in '08, Polanco had applied for U.S. citizenship in Florida. But when the government randomly selected him for a security checklist, his application was held stagnant. He was advised to transfer his case from Florida to Michigan, and from there it didn't take long to be processed.
He was sworn in with his Tigers uniform on and played second base that day.
"It was unique and very convenient for me," he said. "I didn't have to go anywhere else, just work. They came up to me."
Being back in Detroit reminded Polanco about the parts of baseball that he misses, such as the thrill of winning and the camaraderie among friends. He admitted there are parts he doesn't miss as well, such as the injuries and excessive travel.
Besides, life after baseball has afforded him the opportunity to make up for lost family time. Polanco lives in Miami and is the father of a 13-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter. He now has a chance to be there for his kids in a way that was impossible with the schedule of a pro ballplayer.
"It's been fun," he said. "I mean, being a dad 24/7 now, taking the kids to school, doing homework, traveling with them. And spending some special dates with them, too. Birthdays, graduations, stuff like that that I was missing. It's good."
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.