Ex-Detroit Tigers player joins Legacy Baseball Organization

BRIGHTON — Brandon Inge’s measure of success won’t be how many college baseball players he helps develop or how many championship teams have his imprint.

Those things are all well and good, but that’s not what will motivate Inge in his new position as player development director at the Legacy Baseball Organization.

The bottom line for Inge is that baseball should be fun. It was because he enjoyed being on the field every chance he got that Inge grew up to become a 13-year major leaguer, 12 of those seasons with the Detroit Tigers.

For Inge, cultivating a love for the game will be more important than producing elite players.

“The main ingredient is I want to see a smile on a kid’s face when he’s on a baseball field or when he’s walking off a baseball field,” Inge told the Livingston Daily Press & Argus after being introduced to players, parents and staff at the Legacy Center.

“Yeah, there’s strikeouts. Yes, there’s errors, and they’re going to have moments when they shrug their shoulders. But at the end of the day, when their team is happy behind them, I want a big smile on their face. Then I can teach them a little bit without them knowing I’m teaching them a little bit. That’s the best situation possible.”

The prospect of working with young players excites Inge, because he can reach them before they develop bad habits. That’s a key reason he said he chose this path after his playing career, rather than working in pro ball.

“I really want to instill more of a team mentality to these kids right now,” he said. “When they’re young, that’s when you get that mentality set in their minds. In the minor leagues, every man’s for themselves. They’re trying to move up through the ranks to get to the major leagues, and I don’t fault them for that. But once kids learn to be good teammates, even if they don’t make it in baseball, they become good members of society.”

When Inge retired following the 2013 season with Pittsburgh, his focus switched from maintaining a skill level necessary to succeed in the major leagues to working with his sons, Tyler and Chase, after moving back to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. Tyler is 13, Chase is 10.

“It was a little less intense,” Inge said. “You’re talking about playing every day, full speed, nine innings of baseball in front of 50,000 people as opposed to now you’re going to a little back field with your kids. You play with them and you watch them play and you watch them have fun. Each has their own rewards to it. Major league baseball is what it is, and it’s amazing. I’m glad I was able to participate in that at some point. Now, watching your kids grow up and playing on a field, there’s not a better feeling on Earth. That’s why I’m coming back here and giving back to this community right here and see if I can develop some of these young athletes into maybe potential Tigers one day.”

Inge’s sons played a significant role in bringing him back to Michigan.

The opportunity to do some arose when Jason Carr, son of former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, and his wife, Tammi, visited the Inge family. Knowing that Inge was involved with coaching youth baseball and was looking to return to Michigan, Jason Carr brought up the baseball program at the Legacy Center.

After several meetings, Inge was offered the job in January while in Detroit for TigerFest. He was recently at the facility during his sons’ spring break to conduct a fielding and hitting clinic. Inge will begin working full-time at the Legacy Center in August.

Working with young players reminds Inge of how he got started in the game, though in a less-structured environment.

“My dad was very hands-on with me,” he said. “We’d go play at the park as many times as I could possibly get out there. It was just that level of bonding with my father and my brother playing in the backyard.

“But looking at this place, I would have been in here every single day. This place is amazing. It’s state-of-the-art everything. But they keep it fun. Most of these state-of-the-art places you go to, they’re very arrogant. They make it hard to actually get in. This place is very warm, open arms, come on in and they treat you like family. That’s what I really love about it.”

The Legacy baseball program has 33 teams for ages 8-18, ranging from recreational to elite. The baseball and softball training facility is 12,000 square feet, with seven batting cages.

Bringing in someone with Inge’s background will be a major boost for the program, said Ryan Ford, director of baseball at the Legacy Center.

“It’s an instant impact,” Ford said. “You get that instant connection from any of the kids who are listening and hearing his thoughts and how he teaches. But what we want out of him is to be able to make his fingerprint on what we do here as an organization and the curriculum we have the coaches use to teach their kids.”