The Post-Journal

Tigers Tales

Jamestown Native Watches Detroit Behind The Scenes

 

Jose Valverde, the Detroit Tigers' closer, wound up and fired a fastball toward home plate late last Thursday night. Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees slumping third baseman, meekly swung and missed. With that, the American League Division Series was over and the celebration for the men from Motown began in earnest.

The celebration was also under way for a Jamestown native who now lives with his family in south Florida. For Dan Lunetta, the Tigers' director of minor league operations, the victory meant he would get to see his team extend its season deeper into October with the hopes of playing almost to Halloween.

The win also meant that his friends - and rabid Tigers fans from his hometown - would continue their dream of a World Series championship, the first for the club since 1984. If nothing else, Detroit's 2011 season is giving Lunetta and his pals plenty of fuel for when they convene again next July for their annual "State of the Tigers" lunch.

From left are Dan, Sam, Jhoanna and Anthony Lunetta.
The Lunetta family is ready for a recent game at Comerica Park. From left are Dan, Sam, Jhoanna and Anthony Lunetta. Submitted photo.

"After I let the emotion of winning settle in,'' Lunetta said the other day, "the next thought in my mind was how happy I am for that group of guys. It's become a very special thing. We've gotten together every July since I've been with the Tigers. To just be around a bunch of guys who have been rabid Tigers fans for as long as they can remember and to be able to sit down and break bread and have fun talking about the Tigers is pretty special to me."

As one looks back at his professional career, the 1973 Jamestown High School graduate has put together quite a baseball resume. It began with the Jamestown Expos in 1980, included other minor league stints in various front-office capacities in Buffalo and Rochester, and major league stops in Montreal, Cincinnati, Florida and Detroit, the latter since 2004. In his 31 years in the game, Lunetta owns a World Series ring (earned with the Marlins in 1997) and an ALCS ring (acquired with the Tigers in 2006).

After Monday's 7-3 11th-inning loss to Texas, the Tigers trail in the ALCS, 2-0, heading into tonight's Game 3 at Comerica Park in Detroit. The success the club has had since the all-star break came after owner and former Jamestown Falcon Mike Ilitch reportedly made a mandate to his team.

"The mandate was to win,'' Lunetta said. "What we didn't know was what was on the other side of that mandate if we didn't win. We all felt the pressure of having our jobs at stake."

But after a slow start put them seven games behind Cleveland in May, the Tigers - led by manager Jim Leyland, who also played minor league ball in Jamestown - righted the ship, and took over first place in the Central Division for good on July 19.

"Once we got past the first of August, we could see that things were on track,'' Lunetta said. "We all felt better that Mr. Ilitch was going to extend (the contract) of (president/CEO/general manager) Dave Dombrowski, and he did and once he did it would bode well for the rest of us and it did."

Lunetta is in Detroit for tonight's game and said he will "most likely be with the club the rest of the way through, hopefully, the World Series. We'll see what happens."

The Jamestown chapter of the Tigers Booster Club, which includes, among others, Greg Peterson, Wally Huckno, Kenny Martin, Denny Lundberg, Gordy Black and Pete Sullivan, is anxiously awaiting the outcome, too.

"Denny Lundberg called me (last week) and said they were going to get the gang together for sort of a pre-playoff get together,'' Lunetta said. "I would have loved to sit down and watch a playoff game with them."


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