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Ron Gardenhire Finding Peace in Retirement

Former Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire and his wife Carol opted to take the scenic route through Northern Michigan and eventually back to their home in Minnesota.

Former Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire and his wife Carol opted to take the scenic route through Northern Michigan and eventually back to their home in Minnesota. 

A long drive with loved ones, coupled with the serenity of autumn, may have been just what Ron Gardenhire needed after announcing his retirement.

"We finally made it home, drove back to Minnesota, beautiful through the upper Michigan part," Gardenhire told Word on Woodward host Daniella Bruce. "Around the lakes and my wife just really enjoyed that part, so it was a nice ride."

The drive took place a few days after Gardenhire's surprise decision to retire before the third of a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 19. 

Gardenhire, 62, cited his deteriorating health as the reason for stepping away. 

"Even Carol was shocked because when I went to the ballpark, I had no intention of retiring at that moment. But I knew immediately; it was the right thing to do."

At a certain point in life, taking time for yourself, whether you truly want to or not, is something we can all relate with. For Gardenhire, despite having a week remaining in the regular season, he knew retirement would be the most valuable decision he could make in both the short and long term. 

"I've got grandbabies, I've got kids to take care of and my wife--I just told (GM) Al (Avila) I'm going to step back and take care of myself right now."

Weekday trips to the grocery store, summer evenings spent with his budding family, and the peace he associates with a long motorcycle ride are all-year-around options now for Gardenhire. 

Carol Gardenhire, who's supported Ron for over 30 years of minor and major league baseball, sat alongside her husband during the interview.

"I get to follow her around in the grocery store," Gardenhire said with a smile. "And shopping, wow, I'm fired up about that."

The tranquility of life's smaller, but equally important moments is something that life in baseball can't always offer. 

Gardenhire's schedule is bound to open up in ways the last few decades of his life couldn't offer due to the job that he loved so much. However, the game of baseball will forever be inextricably attached to his name.

"He just loves the game so much," Tigers reliever Daniel Norris said on the day of Gardenhire's retirement. "I can see him coming back later. That's what I think about when I think about Gardy; there's somebody that loves the game of baseball."

Gardenhire, who spent 13 seasons as manager of the Minnesota Twins, and the last three managing the Detroit Tigers, wore a polo shirt with the English D emblazoned on the left side of his chest while discussing his time spent in the Motor City. 

"The one thing we've been able to do is just see how really beautiful Detroit is and the whole area around," Gardenhire said. "We mostly stayed up in Troy. Driving through upper Michigan was fantastic. I went on a caravan a couple of times, and it was snowing and how beautiful it is. 

"And then the people--they're so passionate about this baseball team. Tigers fans--they're unbelievable."

Gardenhire's tenure in Detroit will be attached to a transitional, rebuilding period that didn't produce the same on-field success he had in Minnesota. His final record as the Tigers skipper will be 132-241. 

The former Tigers manager's final win was a 6-0 shutout victory over the Kansas City Royals, which came on Tuesday, Sept. 15, in Detroit. That win happened to be the 1,200th of his admirable career. 

There's no denying his love for the game of baseball. But, for now, he can focus on the endless love given by his family.

"Gardy," as his peers often refer to him, will have the pleasure of riding into the proverbial sunset with his wife Carol and up and coming generations of the Gardenhire clan.

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