WILMINGTON, Mass. – The Bruins have formed a strong bond with the other professional teams in Boston, a cross-sports unity seen most recently with the support the club showed for the Patriots in their run to the Super Bowl.
But some loyalties to the teams of their youth are too strong to break, even in a sports-mad city like Boston. Steven Kampfer had no problem being friendly with the Red Sox when the Bruins brought the Cup to Fenway last June, but the Michigan native's heart still belongs to his beloved Tigers.
And like most Detroit fans, Kampfer is pretty happy about what the Tigers have done this offseason.
"I'm a big Tigers fan," Kampfer said. "I guess I can't really say that being out East now, but I was pretty pumped when they signed Prince Fielder. It's pretty good to go home and watch and cheer for them."
Kampfer keeps tabs on the Tigers when he returns home in the offseason, though he doesn’t mind when long playoff runs cut into his chances to get to Comerica Park. The Tigers' home will also host the bulk of the activities surrounding next year's Winter Classic.
The actual game between the Red Wings, who are owned by Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, and the Toronto Maple Leafs will be played at the Big House at the University of Michigan. But Comerica will also feature an outdoor rink where the alumni game and AHL, OHL and college games will be held.
"I go down to Comerica quite a bit during the summer," University of Michigan grad Kampfer said. "It's a great city. To go down and watch a baseball game, the atmosphere’s fun. The Ilitch's do it right, having everything there for the fans. It'll be a great setting for the Winter Classic."
It could also be the setting for the Fall Classic, or at least Kampfer hopes so. And the signing of Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract to play first base could help make that a reality.
"It was awesome," Kampfer said. "I was a big fan [of the move], especially after [Victor] Martinez was out for the year. It will be something good that they have for a long time."
Martinez, a former Red Sox catcher, spent most of last year as the Tigers designated hitter, but suffered a torn ACL in January and is expected to miss the 2012 season. That helped spur the signing of Fielder, who will take over at first base with fellow slugger Miguel Cabrera moving across the diamond to third, where he last played in his first season in Detroit in 2008. That will make for some questionable infield defense, but Kampfer isn't worried.
"From the way I heard [Tigers manager Jim] Leyland talk, he was talking about putting Cabrera back at third," Kampfer said. "I always thought he was a good third baseman, but they have [Brandon] Inge there that can fill in or he catch as well. I think they're underrated for their infield."
And if that defense does falter, a lineup with Fielder and Cabrera in the middle can still slug its way to a lot of victories. Plus, at least once every five days the Tigers can count on having reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on the mound to keep opposing bats in check.
"You know you're guaranteed a win when you've got Verlander pitching," Kampfer said.