NewsPolk County


Spring training on hold but fans celebrate at Lakeland's annual Tiger BBQ

Posted at 9:46 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 21:47:03-05

LAKELAND, Fla — The delay of spring training means Lakeland's biggest tourism generator is also on hold, but fans are celebrating while a Major League Baseball lockout continues.

Born in Detroit, Tom Pecker is a lifelong Tigers fan. “I've been a fan since I was probably ten years old,” he said.

Pecker and his wife came down from Michigan to attend a spring training game that was set for Monday, at Tigertown, home of Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. However, the game was canceled.

“I’m hoping that they come to a settlement for all the parties, so we can get on with baseball,” Pecker said.

Major League Baseball announced spring training games are canceled through March 5, as collective bargaining talks continue. That decision hits hard in Lakeland, where the Detroit Tigers have trained since 1934.

“We have the oldest relationship between Major League Baseball and a city than anybody in Major League Baseball. So Lakeland's number one,” said Bob Donahay, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Lakeland.

Donahay said spring training generates $55 million for the local economy, with fans coming from all over the United States and Canada.

Though training is still on hold, fans are coming together at the Detroit Tigers BBQ. The tradition started when the mayor of Lakeland threw a party in his backyard for the Tigers, 76 years ago.

“We’ll have 500-600 people here tonight and it gives them a chance to meet the players, coaches, staff, everybody that come down from Detroit. Like I said it’s a tradition,” Donahay said.

The Detroit Tigers BBQ returns this year after being canceled due to COVID. The event is the only one in the nation where players, staff, and the community break bread together.