Tigers play-by-play voice remains optimistic for ’20 season

GRAND RAIPDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Matt Shepard was supposed to be in Cleveland Thursday to begin his second season as the play-by-play voice of the Tigers television broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit.

Instead of calling his second opening day, he was busy doing interviews and hosting an afternoon radio show, talking sports and the impact the coronavirus continues to have on all of us.

“You’re just trying to keep up on everything Major League Baseball is deciding, Larry,” Shephard said in a FaceTime interview with News 8’s Larry Figurski. “But more important than anything else is taking care of your family, just like you and everybody else in the Grand Rapids area is doing.”

Shepard was also asked if there was a hopeful vibe around the front office or with any of the players he’s had a chance to keep up with.  

“Well that’s the thing about sports, I think everybody tries to stay as positive as possible,” Shepard said.  “There is a strong belief that we will have baseball, but the question everybody has is, ‘When will it start and how long will it take before you can get to that point?’”  

While players are doing their best to stay in shape, it’s not reasonable to expect they’d be able to begin a season at a moment’s notice.  

“How long would it take for athletes who’ve prepared for the moment of, like you said, it was going to be opening day today,” Shepard said. “To then rev back up for an opening day, depending on the dates.”

As for the team itself, it’s well documented that the Tigers are in the midst of a rebuild. However, Shepard is optimistic that the key off season additions should help provide a jolt for the 2020 season.

“I really like the additions Al Avila made,” Shepard said. “I like C.J. Cron, a power-bat in the middle of the lineup that will protect Miguel Cabrera a little.”  

“Jonathon Schoop had 23 home runs a year ago,” Shepard added. “He’s not a great defensive player, but he’s more than capable.”

The new face that excites Shepard the most is behind the plate. Catcher Austin Romine should bring some leadership to the pitching staff.

“Every pitcher I spoke with and even the catchers I spoke with in spring training raved about his leadership and how he handles a pitching staff,” Shepard said.