Before Ben Verlander became a national baseball podcaster, he was an outfielder in the Tigers farm system for five seasons after being drafted by them in 2013. He even homered off his older brother, Justin, in a Minor League Spring Training game at Tigertown in ‘16. The younger Verlander still has a place in his heart for the Tigers, several of whom were Minor League teammates (Tyler Alexander, Derek Hill, Harold Castro, Gregory Soto, Joe Jiménez, Jason Foley and Spencer Turnbull among them).
Verlander, star of the Flippin’ Bats podcast, took a moment to talk about his budding career and his Tigers memories while catching up with the team at Dodger Stadium last weekend.
MLB.com: When you were playing, did you ever envision a career in media?
Verlander: No, never. I was a communication major [at Old Dominion] with a minor in sports management, so I guess it’s always in the back of your head. But to play baseball, you have to [think] there’s nothing else I’m going to do, there’s nothing else I want to do. But the second I finished up, man, I just never fell out of love with the game and I wanted to stay in it somehow. So here I am.
MLB.com: How did it come about?
Verlander: So I finished up and then moved back home to Virginia. I was just doing different stuff in Virginia for about a year, and I met my now-agent and had a few things come up, and that’s right when COVID hit. I was in limbo in Virginia for a good year and then he connected me with my now-boss at Fox Sports, who said to go meet him and asked if I wanted to do the World Series watch party for Fox Sports with Tino Martinez, Rick Ankiel and Nick Swisher. I came out here [to Los Angeles], ended up hosting that, had no idea I was going to be. I guess it went well, and I ended up signing a full-time job and moved out here in February of last year.
MLB.com: Do you ever think about the wild road here?
Verlander: Yes. Sometimes I just have to think about the journey. To be able to play five years professionally — obviously not make it to the level I wanted to, but to make it to that level in a different way, it’s really cool. I had a live show every day at the World Series on the field. There are some moments I just step back and think about how cool it is.
MLB.com: Is there anything about your career, what you faced and how you handled it, that helps you in your role right now?
Verlander: Absolutely the relationships you create. It’s huge. I have my show at FOX now, and to have guys on, it helps playing the game and being able to talk to them that way. This is just a way-of-life thing. Nothing can prepare you for failure like baseball does. You fail, at minimum, seven out of 10 times; I was a little more than that. You have to figure out how to deal with failure, and if you don’t, it’s going to eat you up. So you get into this world, and I don’t want to say life seems easier, but not playing every day, you gather an appreciation. You still have that work ethic; there’s just not as much failure involved.
MLB.com: And the routine helps?
Verlander: Oh my God, I’m so routine-oriented, and that’s never changed. I would get into a routine when I was playing and do the same thing every single day. You finish up and it’s like, “OK, how can I continue with the routine? I need one.” Athletes need to keep a routine. So I got into golf. I do the same thing every day when I go into the studio to record my show, just keep my routine going. I have to have a routine or else I’m going to lose my mind. You play 162 games in like 180 days. You have to have something.
There’s always something that I feel like I can be doing more. Even on my days off, I’m watching baseball and live-tweeting baseball or writing. There’s always something, and I want it that way. I need it that way. I’m doing what I love. If I wasn’t busy, I’d be doing something that I don’t love as much as baseball.
MLB.com: The interaction on social media, is that a natural extension for you?
Verlander: Something that’s been natural for me. Even as it grows, it’s a community of people, and I want it to feel like that. I don’t ever want it to feel like this is my glimpse into somebody else’s life. I want my social media to feel like this is a cool community that I’m a part of. And that’s why I feel like a lot of guys that finish playing get into the media industry… and it’s a different mindset. I never made it quite to that level, but I have the experience of playing professionally. People don’t treat me like I was a big-leaguer, and rightfully so, but I have that experience, so it’s a cool dynamic that I just want to share with people. And hopefully that comes across.