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Published: Wednesday, 4/7/2010

Patience is Parrish's virtue

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Judging a major league manager is a simple task.

Managers with a high winning percentage are "good." And it doesn't hurt if the manager has a few division titles, league pennants or World Series titles on his resume.

In Triple-A, it isn't quite as easy.

Sure, wins are important. Division titles and pennants and Governors' Cup crowns are good too. But Triple-A managers also must develop players, fix flaws in fringe athletes, and perhaps win a few games along the way.

Few managers have been able to juggle those goals as successfully as Larry Parrish.

Wins? Parrish needs only one more win to reach the 500 mark here in Toledo. And with 42 victories this season he will pass Cal Ermer as the winningest manager in Mud Hens history.

Parrish has led Toledo to four winning seasons in his seven years. That's pretty impressive when you consider that the Mud Hens have had just 14 winning seasons since 1965, a span of 45 years.

Titles? Parrish has led the Hens to a pair of West Division crowns as well as Governors' Cup titles in 2005 and 2006. To put that number in perspective, the other 22 managers who have led the Hens from 1965 to the present combined for three division titles and only one Governors' Cup.

"It is not very often that a former major league all-star, who also happens to be an all-around good guy, is also an excellent and patient teacher," Mud Hens general manager Joe Napoli said. "Toledo is very fortunate [to have him as our manager]."

So are the parent Detroit Tigers, who count on Parrish and his staff - hitting coach Leon "Bull" Durham, pitching coach A.J. Sager and trainer Matt Rankin - to get players ready for a big league call-up.

And that group is good at their job. For example, in 2004 Parrish and Durham worked with a young outfielder who had hit just five home runs in 100 games the previous year.

That season Marcus Thames hit 24 in just 64 games for Toledo, and he went on to two 20-homer seasons with the Tigers.

In 2008 Parrish and Sager tutored a young pitcher who had posted a 6.23 ERA in the big leagues the previous year.

That year right-hander Armando Galarraga won two starts for Toledo, then posted 13 wins after earning a promotion to Detroit.

Last year Parrish and his staff saw 22 different players wear the Hens' uniform as well as the Tigers' Olde English D. And that doesn't include the players who didn't earn a call-up, but learned lessons that season that will prepare them for the majors in the future.

"Our staff [in Toledo] is absolutely solid," said Glenn Ezell, the Tigers' director of player development. "Their main goal and drive is to get players major league ready.

"When I or our [roving instructors] leave town, we don't worry about whether something is going to happen. We can trust that it's going to get done."

What makes Parrish special?

"Larry is a great teacher," Napoli said. "He is very calm, he knows and loves baseball, and he is a hard worker."

His resume also is unique for a Triple-A manager, since it includes as stint as Detroit's manager in 1998-99. He also has spent time as a roving instructor and scout as well as a coach, a combination that allows him to see talent others might miss as well as working to develop that talent in unique ways.

It all adds up to numbers made all the more impressive by this fact: While Parrish seems almost certain to break the franchise record for career victories later this season, he's almost as certain to not break the mark for losses this year.

And it's a good bet that he'll surpass Ermer's win total of 540 before he breaks Ermer's record of 1,115 games managed.

Regardless, he has a staunch supporter in Napoli.

"I hope that, once Larry becomes the manager with the most wins in Toledo history, that he'll receive the opportunity to manage at the major league level again," Napoli said.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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