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Published: Sunday, 5/18/2008

Badenhop doing well so far

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Burke Badenhop, who pitched at Perrysburg and BGSU and was drafted by Detroit, is in the majors with the Marlins at 25 years old. Burke Badenhop, who pitched at Perrysburg and BGSU and was drafted by Detroit, is in the majors with the Marlins at 25 years old.
ALAN DIAZ / AP Enlarge

Dalynn Badenhop is a professor at the University of Toledo Medical Center, his wife, Sharon, is an assistant professor at Owens Community College Findlay Campus.

They live in the same house in Perrysburg they've owned since moving there in 1997.

In other words, they haven't retired, sold their home, and relocated to Boca Raton.

How is it then that the Badenhops see their son Burke more than ever, now that he pitches for the Florida Marlins instead of for the Tigers' organization, which has an affiliate in nearby Toledo?

"That's the great thing about the MLB Package on cable TV," Dalynn said. "We watch him every night. We can watch him even when he's not pitching, sitting in the dugout."

Burke Badenhop, 25, has almost always played baseball close to mom and dad. He became hooked on the game as a youth in Greenville, N.C., where his family lived, and starred at Perrysburg High and Bowling Green State University.

When the Tigers drafted him in the 19th

round in 2005, it was only a matter of time before he'd be pitching minutes away from his parents for the Mud Hens, then about an hour away in Detroit.

Or so they thought.

The Tigers traded Badenhop and five others to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis on Dec. 5. But rather than lament the lost opportunity for Badenhop to pitch close to home, he and his family celebrated the trade that ultimately cleared his path to the big leagues - a celebration that continued last week when he pitched in front of 25 family members and friends in Cincinnati against the Reds last week.

"To be standing here today is a dream come true," Badenhop said that night at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. "As awful as it is to look at me hit out there, I wouldn't change it for the world."

Badenhop is funny - one of the many reasons the Marlins like him - and is quick to crack jokes about himself, as evidenced by the above quote.

The Tigers appreciated Badenhop - quick wit and all - when they drafted him after his senior year at BGSU.

"He's an absolute pro," said Glenn Ezell, Detroit's director of player development. "I knew whatever ability he had he would take advantage of."

A 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander, Badenhop enjoyed success immediately after college, going 6-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 14 starts for short-season Single-A Oneonta in 2005.

The next year he went 14-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 124 strikeouts at Single-A West Michigan, and was named the Tigers' minor league pitcher of the year.

"That was kind of a breakthrough year for him," Dalynn Badenhop remembered. "That's when his mother and I, and him, I think, first got the sense something could really be achieved."

That "something" was reaching the major leagues. But Badenhop began the 2007 season nowhere near Detroit, but in Single-A Lakeland. He eventually pitched three games for Double-A Erie, and between the two stops was 12-6 with a 2.94 ERA.

With the likes of prospects Andrew Miller and Jair Jurrjens, among others, in front of him in Detroit's farm system, the best Badenhop could have realistically hoped for was to begin this season pitching for Toledo.

Badenhop was born in Atlanta and grew up a Braves fan. When the San Diego Padres were in Miami for a series earlier this month, he sent a baseball to current Padres and former Braves pitcher Greg Maddux for an autograph.

So when the Tigers and Marlins shocked the baseball world with a blockbuster, eight-player trade that included Badenhop on Dec. 5, it wasn't as though he was being traded by the team he idolized as a child.

But his parents had gotten used to the idea that he'd one day pitch in Toledo and then Detroit.

"It would've been nice if he'd been in Toledo," Dalynn Badenhop said. "He'd have been close to home, but it wouldn't have prepared him for the next level. Most major leaguers don't live at home with their parents."

Badenhop's mother, Sharon, said she's learning about the business side of baseball - about opportunities and hard choices.

The Tigers believe Cabrera is one of the premier right-handed hitters in the game, and were willing to part with a stable of minor leaguers to acquire him and Willis.

Florida received pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin - two of the hottest prospects anywhere, catcher Mike Rabelo, and pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern, and Badenhop.

Ezell, who was one of the people responsible for grooming Badenhop in the Tigers' organization, was sad to see the Perrysburg resident go.

"Whenever you have a young man who is an absolute pro, who whenever you give him the ball goes as hard as he can, it's tough," Ezell said.

But opportunity works both ways.

Stuck behind pitchers more prominently placed on the

Tigers' radar screen, Badenhop was invited to the Marlins' big-league camp during spring training.

He went 0-1 with a sparkling 1.88 ERA and one save in seven spring games, but was optioned to Double-A Carolina a week before the season started.

"We were kind of kicking it around about him breaking camp with us," Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

After one start for the Carolina Mudcats, Badenhop was promoted to the majors April 7. His mother remembers the phone call home.

"He had just got the news like 10 minutes before, and I was thrilled he called home," Sharon Badenhop said. "I could hear the excitement in his voice, but at the same time, he was pretty matter of fact. This was what all of them work for."

Badenhop made his major league debut April 9, his first start on April 13, and recorded his first victory on May 7. He's currently x-x with a x.xx ERA, and is coming off a xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxx.

Gonzalez said he likes Badenhop's "[mental] makeup, everything about him."

"He's a strike thrower. He's not afraid of contact. He's getting better, more comfortable with the whole big-league thing," Gonzalez said.

Badenhop is taking advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime, an opportunity 1,300 miles from home.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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