Weekly throughout the 2017 season, The Blade will be posting “Coop Scoop” profiles and features to take you inside the Toledo Mud Hens.
ANTHONY VASQUEZ: Vasquez’s focus helps him succeed
The path Anthony Vasquez took to pitch in the major leagues was quick.
The left-hander was drafted by Seattle in the 18th round of the 2009 draft, and just two years later he found himself on a major-league mound.
The focus Vasquez used in that sudden rise through the Mariners organization has helped him deal with the bumps in the road he has encountered in the years that have followed. FULL STORY
JASON KRIZAN: Third call-up has been charm for Hens’ Krizan
Jason Krizan had spent parts of the previous two seasons with the Mud Hens.
Entering this season, he knew he was not guaranteed a third.
“I had an idea that, unless there were a lot of releases of free agents [the Tigers] signed in the winter, that there was a pretty decent chance I would begin the year in Double-A,” Krizan said.
“Obviously I was disappointed when I got the news, but I also knew there was a chance that would happen.” FULL STORY
ERIK IBSEN: Intern to GM: Ibsen has done it all for Mud Hens
The year was 1995, and Erik Ibsen was looking to enter the business world of sports.
“I had a marketing degree from the University of Arizona, and I wanted to tie that in with sports in some way,” Ibsen said. “I got in touch with the Mud Hens, and I interviewed with them at the Winter Meetings, then I started an internship with them in March.
“I tell people all the time: I had planned to be here three months. But here it is, 21 years later, and I’m still here.”
But Ibsen no longer is a lowly intern: he now serves as executive vice president and general manager of the Mud Hens. FULL STORY
EFREN NAVARRO: Mud Hens benefit from MLB veteran’s experience
The year was 2007, and Efren Navarro was about to see his dream come true. A senior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Navarro was prepared to be drafted into professional baseball.
And the dream did come true — with a twist.
The Angels — one of the California native’s favorite teams growing up — drafted him. But he was drafted in the 50th round.
Make that the final round. FULL STORY
FIFTH THIRD FIELD: Hens’ home is more of a park for pitchers
Using data from the past three seasons, the final analysis shows Toledo’s home ballpark favors pitchers — at least slightly.
Considering a score of 1.000 is completely neutral, Fifth Third Field has a runs factor of 0.967 (relatively close to even) during the past three seasons, a home run factor of 0.758 (strongly favoring pitchers), and a hit factor of 0.990 (almost break-even).
“I think it’s a fair ballpark,” Mud Hens pitching coach Jeff Pico said of Fifth Third Field, summing up the consensus of the Toledo coaching staff. “The ball can be hit out of the ballpark, and there are big gaps [in the outfield], but I think it plays big enough for pitchers to have success as well.” FULL STORY
JEFF FERRELL: Mud Hens reliever working his way back
Jeff Ferrell will never forget that magical 2015 season.
“It was a complete roller coaster,” he said. “I was in Detroit, and just three days earlier I had been in Double-A.”
In short, 2015 was a dream come true for Ferrell as he reached a lifetime goal of pitching in the major leagues. But last year was a nightmare, which led the right-hander from Charlotte to slowly rebuild his career. FULL STORY
For the first time since before Fifth Third Field opened, there’s a new voice talking to Mud Hens hitters.
That voice belongs to Brian Harper, who has taken over as Toledo hitting coach for Leon “Bull” Durham after the latter was promoted to assistant hitting coach in Detroit for 2017.
Harper said his focus on working with Hens hitters is to sharpen their mental skills at the plate.
“Everyone these days seems to be trying to reinvent hitting,” he said. “At this level, I’m about the mental part of hitting, focusing on beating the pitcher rather than worrying about what you’re doing.” FULL STORY
LOGAN KENSING: Dependable reliever keeping positive attitude for Hens
Logan Kensing still remembers the first time he played Triple-A baseball.
“The first time I got to Triple-A I was 23, and most of my teammates were older,” he said. “A lot of them were bitter for a lot of different reasons, and I was just having fun playing baseball.”
It’s a situation the Mud Hens reliever never has forgotten — especially since he now is one of those Triple-A veterans, playing for his seventh team at this level.
The native of Boerne, Texas, who is in his second year with the Mud Hens, said his goal has become simply to bring the proper attitude to his team’s clubhouse. FULL STORY
BRENDAN RYAN: Shortstop’s defense fits Toledo like a glove
The groundball skipped quickly on the infield grass toward shortstop. Brendan Ryan was poised, ready to pounce.
But the Mud Hens shortstop did not simply grab the grounder and throw to first. Instead, he caught the groundball between his legs, then pirouetted before making the throw.
The play was made in batting practice, where hot dogging is viewed as a sport rather than a crime. But Ryan’s joy in turning practice groundballs into the baseball equivalent of an “And1” mixtape displays the joy with which he plays the game — a joy that has not been diminished by age (Ryan is 35) or experience (15 professional seasons).
“He’s awesome — his personality is out there, but it’s a good out there,” Toledo manager Mike Rojas said of Ryan. FULL STORY