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Concept of getaway day lost on Tigers

Zubaz-clad team stuck in Boston overnight before series in Cleveland

Concept of getaway day lost on Tigers

CLEVELAND -- The Tigers left Fenway Park in the early hours of Monday evening with a perfect road trip. By the time they finally arrived at Progressive Field late Monday afternoon, they had their first loss -- the team plane.

They were at least stranded in Boston in style Sunday night, decked out from head to toe in Tiger-striped Zubaz gear. They were wearing the same stuff when they arrived at Progressive Field around 4:25 p.m. ET on Monday, two hours and 40 minutes before first pitch for the opener of their three-game series against the Indians.

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"Some of us didn't brush our teeth," Torii Hunter said. "Some guys didn't shower. We used our fingers as a toothbrush. We had the hotel mouthwash. Some guys just stink."

It started as a bonding exercise for the tail end of the Tigers' three-city trip. It ended up being a travel adventure none of them are soon to forget.

"I'm like, 'Just pretend this isn't happening,'" reliever Phil Coke said. "But it was fun, though. It's a very, very memorable story."

It began with the Tigers tweeting like crazy on their way out of Fenway Park, having just completed their first series sweep there in 31 years.

Their original itinerary had them scheduled to arrive in Cleveland around 2:30 a.m. ET, arriving at their hotel downtown soon afterwards. The team knows the routine well, having had several Sunday night games over the last few years. There would be time to sleep in before heading to Progressive Field for their normal pregame routine ahead of tonight's 7:05 game.

They were preparing to take off from Logan International Airport when they ran into mechanical issues with the team plane. Coke said the plane suffered damage to the nose-gear doors as it was getting pushed out to the runway.

Sometime around 2 a.m., they realized they wouldn't be taking off at all. And the series sweep celebration was on hold.

"We had fun and we were jumping up and down, cracking jokes with each other," Hunter said. "Then an hour and a half went by, trying to figure out what's wrong with the plane. And then when they said we were heading back to the hotel, I think all the jokes just stopped."

At that point, though, they didn't have hotel rooms booked. So as players were stepping off the plane and onto shuttle buses to return to the terminal, the Tigers were scrambling to rebook.

"A lot of the hotels were full," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We tried to get a hotel by the airport, but they were booked. It's tough to get 60 rooms at 2 in the morning."

They ended up back at the same hotel where they stayed for the series, arriving around 3 a.m. Because the hotel's computer system was undergoing maintenance, Don Kelly said, a security guard had to unlock their rooms for them, one by one.

They still didn't have their luggage at that point. They did have their Zubaz.

"At least they were comfortable," Ausmus said.

The Tigers use a private jet that they share with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. Both teams are owned by Mike Ilitch. On the rare occasions that the flight schedules conflict, the Tigers will charter a plane from Delta, which has a hub in Detroit. The team chartered flights regularly three years ago while their plane was being updated.

That plane ended up heading elsewhere for repairs. The Tigers had to arrange for a charter plane to fly in and pick them up. That, however, took time.

According to FlightAware, the plane flew in from Chicago Monday morning, arriving early in the afternoon. The team took off from Boston at 2:30 p.m., landing at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland just before 4 p.m.

Ausmus and his staff did prep work for the Indians series on the flight. The players, meanwhile, made the best of it.

"I honestly don't think anybody was worried about it," Coke said, "because if we rolled right in with just enough time to get our stuff on and get out there, I mean, 'Hey, we made it. We didn't have to forfeit.'"

The saving grace for the Tigers is that Monday's scheduled starting pitcher, Drew Smyly, is already in Cleveland. With the late-night travel, the Tigers flew him in ahead of the team on a commercial flight Sunday evening so that he could get a good night's sleep.

"He called down this morning to look for his bags. When they said, 'Well your team hasn't shown up,' he was really worried about us," Hunter said. "So that's bonding."

His gear arrived with the rest of the team's equipment, shortly before batting practice.

The Tigers have had minor travel hiccups in the past, from slight delays to weather issues and layovers. They even left without their traveling secretary once following a fuel stop on their way back from the West Coast. This is the first time in recent years, however, that they've been delayed to this degree.

It's surely the first time they've been stranded while wearing Zubaz.

"A little short on sleep," Ausmus said, "but we'll be fine."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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