There was a fleeting moment that Detroit’s Justin Verlander wants to share with fans.
It came after the top of the seventh inning on Monday night, after the 119th pitch of his night, a 98 m.p.h. fastball, was caught in center field. It was in the back of his mind—has been for quite some time now—and it came to the forefront as he walked off the mound to a standing ovation at Comerica Park.
After a stellar seven-inning performance against the Royals, evasive as always about the trade rumors that continue to circle around his name and equally sensitive about the situation at hand, Verlander wants you to know that he heard that ovation. He felt it. And although he felt like he couldn’t acknowledge it in the middle of a tied game—he wondered the same thing fans did.
He wondered if that was the final ovation he would get from the fans that watched a kid from Goochland, Va., grow into perhaps a future Hall of Fame pitcher right before their very eyes.
“You never know what could happen,” he said. “So it’s back there and there is a moment walking off the mound where you just take a second to appreciate it. And I know I didn’t acknowledge it when I was walking off the mound, probably because we’re in the middle of a tie game and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“I guess there might be a fleeting moment where you might say this might be the last time,” he said. “But it’s very fleeting. Then it’s, ‘All right, well, I appreciate it, but we gotta score a run here. We gotta win a game.’”
“Who knows,” he said. “Maybe there’s a lot more of those to come. Maybe there’s not. All I know is that I heard it, I felt it, I appreciated it and I love these fans and I’m glad that they acknowledged that.”
It was as if, for the first time, Verlander realized a goodbye could really be near. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn’t. But it if was his final start of a fantastic career with the Tigers, despite all of the stoicism he showed and the moment he didn’t want to get caught up in, Verlander wanted to let fans know he was thinking about the very thing he’s trying his hardest not to.