2011 marks the Detroit Tigers 75th season of Spring Training in Lakeland, Florida. The Tigers have journeyed to Lakeland every spring since 1934, with the exception of 1943-45 due to World War II, establishing the longest-lasting relationship between a Major League team and a current Spring Training host city. In honor of this momentous milestone the Detroit Tigers and the City of Lakeland have planned a week-long celebration February 22-27, providing fans the opportunity to mingle with current and former Tigers players, members of the Tigers organization, and special guests. Over these decades millions of Tigers fans have had the opportunity to experience the thrill of major league spring training and the magic of meeting Hall of Famers and World Champions. 75 Years…a celebration in the making and still going strong. “Tigers Week” kicks off on Tuesday, February 22 with festivities for all including a bar-b-que, black tie gala, golf tournament and culminates with The Detroit Tigers playing an exhibition game against The Florida Southern Moccasins. Why is this game so special? Well, Feb. 25th marks the 25th anniversary of this exhibition game and both teams are taking this opportunity to honor Tiger alum, Joe Niekro. From 1970-1972, Niekro proudly wore the Tiger uniform and soon decided that Lakeland was the place he always wanted to call “home.” After retiring from his 22 years in the Majors, Niekro enjoyed coaching his son, Lance, who then played for the Moccasins earning a first-team All-Sunshine State Conference selection, a first-team All-South Region selection and a third-team All-America pick, before being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 2nd round in 2000.
To honor Joe and the Niekro family, The Detroit Tigers have claimed Feb. 25th as Niekro Night at Joker Marchant Stadium. All fans will receive a Joe Niekro poster, Natalie and Lance Niekro will throw out the first pitch and speak to the crowd about The Joe Niekro Foundation and it’s commitment to brain aneurysm awareness and research.. Throughout the game, fans will be encouraged to take part in the foundation’s “Text to Give” campaign by texting the word STRIKEOUT to 20222. By doing so, a $10 donation will be made directly from their cell phone and appear on their next cell phone bill. PSA announcements of Natalie Niekro will be playing to educate fans of The Joe Niekro Foundation and our mission.
The Joe Niekro Foundation is honored to be a part of this tribute and thank The Detroit Tigers, The Florida Southern Moccasins, the City of Lakeland and all the fans for their support, commitment and dedication to the Niekro name. Stay tuned for pictures and a recap after the game.