Justin Verlander was born February 20, 1983, north of Richmond. His home-life, in the Manakin-Sabot community, was a happy one. His family, father Richard, mother Kathy and brother Benjamin formed a tight unit with Justin- a unit that has stayed close down the years. You can see echoes of that closeness, that loyalty throughout Justin Verlander’s career; indeed he is now the longest-tenured player with the Detroit Tigers and shows no signs of restlessness.

First Signs of Talent

It was his father who first saw the baseball talent in the young Justin. A firm baseball fan himself, Richard recounts the story of how one day Justin and he walked alongside a lake. Picking up a stone, Richard heaved it out over the water. The stone plumped with a splash in the middle of the water. Imitating his father, Justin picked up another similar stone and threw it; only this time, the stone cleared the lake and landed on dry ground. Richard was amazed at the natural strength of his sons’ untutored throw. Young Justin did not remain untutored for long.

Before he was ten, Justin was pitching in youth leagues. His prodigious power, not always accompanied by control, made him an awesome opponent, with some kids so dismayed by his ability that they flatly refused to play against him.

Promise of Greatness

Inspired by his baseball hero Nolan Ryan, Justin slowly but surely mastered his game. As he started high-school, he was hampered by the lack of a decent baseball program, and things did look bleak with regard to his dream sports career. There is one endearing Verlander story from this period: Justin needed 50 cents, and a school friend lent him the money. Verlander vowed to repay the sum, along with 0.1% of his Majors sign-up money. Half a decade later Justin wrote him a check for over $3,000.

Hitting the Big Time

Verlander did rise up through the leagues, being one of the most dependable figures in college baseball. Knocking out near 100mph fastballs, 6′ 5″ Verlander was an absolute menace to opposing teams.
His association with the Tigers began in 2004 after being named second in their draft. For a time, an actual contract seemed in peril, until his union negotiator father Richard took up the slack, bringing in the contract, along with a $3m+ bonus.

Since that time, Verlander has not looked back. 2006 saw Justin become the AL Rookie of the Year; the next year he achieved the remarkable feat of the first ever no-hitter seen at Comerica. 2011 brought a second no-hitter and receipt of the Cy Young award. Fame and immense fortune have not weakened Verlander’s resolve, and though success for the Tigers ebbs and flows- as it does for all great teams- Verlander’s efforts remain consistent and convincing, year on year.

2017 promises to be no different.