New Mud Hens manager doesn’t mince his words

J. Patrick Eaken

New Toledo Mud Hens Manager Tom Prince does not mince words. He watches what he says, and means what he says.
        Prince was joined by Detroit Tigers Manager Ron Gardenhire, Tigers pitcher Matthew Boyd, and Tigers Vice President of Player Development Dave Littlefield at the annual Flock Winter Party, held for Flock game plan members at the Holy Toledo Room in the Mud Hens front offices Wednesday night.
        “David Littlefield gave him his field baseball job as a coach. Now I’ve come full circle again, and I’m near the end of my career and he gave me another job, so I’m very grateful,” Prince said.
        “I had the honor to play for Ron Gardenhire, but being here, being back in the minor leagues is really I enjoy it. It’s development of young kids who are trying to succeed in life. It’s about development, it’s about winning and that’s what I’ve always believed in the game of baseball. People have invested time in me just like you’re investing time to come down here.
        “I’m going to invest time in the community and to the people that are in here, just like I’ll invest time with the kids who are out there. So, I’m very excited. You can see that I don’t show a whole lot of emotion, but I am very excited right now. It’s just who I am — nervous, scared and everything else. We’re good,” Prince continued in his speech to Flock members.
        Littlefield said. “When the search for a Triple A manager began, we prioritized finding someone with experience in developing high-level talent and creating a winning culture. It was clear from the beginning that Tom Prince fit that mold perfectly, and we’re thrilled to have him lead our staff in Toledo.”
        Toledo Mud Hens Vice President and General Manager Erik Ibsen said, “Tom brings extensive experience at the highest level as a player and as a manager and we’re excited to welcome him to Toledo. Our Mud Hens players and minor league development system will benefit from his knowledge and we look forward to watching the players work towards their goal of playing Major League baseball
        The 55-year-old from Kankakee, Illinois served as the Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach for the past two seasons. As a player, Prince had a 17-year Major League career as a catcher with five different teams between 1987-2003 (Pittsburgh, LA Dodgers, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Kansas City). In 519 MLB games, he posted a .208 batting average with 24 home runs and 140 RBI.
        “His blend of Major and Minor League coaching experience is respected throughout baseball, and he has proven that he’s ready to take on this challenge. Tom will be working with many of our top prospects with the Mud Hens, and we’re confident that his leadership both in the clubhouse and on the field will be impactful and will prepare them to excel at the Major League level,” Littlefield said.
        Prince added, “This is a tremendously exciting time to be in the Detroit Tigers organization, especially playing a role in what’s grown to be a top-tier player development system.
        “People across baseball have noticed the young core of talented players the Tigers have built over the last few years, and I’m looking forward to working with some of the club’s top prospects in Toledo during the 2020 season and beyond. We’ll have a focus on playing fundamentally sound and winning baseball, best preparing these men to contribute with the big league club in the near future.”
        Prince said he learned how important development is when he was being developed as a player.
        “I have been developed as a 21-year-old kid. One of my coaches (minor league pitching coach) instilled confidence in ways that no other manager could have instilled confidence in me. I had the honor of playing for Jim Leyland, I went to Tommy Lasorda, I played for Bill Russell for a short period of time and played for Terry Francona over in Philadelphia, played for Tom Kelly in Minnesota, Ron Gardenhire in Minnesota, a short time for Tony Pena at the end of my career — I went to Kansas City for the last half of my career after Ron released me,” Prince said.
        Prince becomes the eighth person to manage the Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field and the 56th in Toledo baseball history. He said his style of managing is to get to the truth.
        “The question is what style do I have? I have many. I know when to be tough and I know when to pat somebody on the back, but the one thing I will always get is the truth,” Prince said. “That’s all you ask for as a player. Give them the truth, tell them like it is, sometimes they are not going to like it, but that’s the way it is.
        “I’m a fundamental guy. I want to see them be able to bunt it, I want to see them be able to catch it and I want to see them be able to throw it. When they hit it, please run. It’s a pretty simple game. We can really break it down and there will be some young kids I can learn from, still to this day. So, my style is going to be different and I can honestly tell you being a development guy, when they call me in Detroit and they tell me, ‘Hey, we’re playing short tonight so you’re not going to be able to use two left-handed pitchers,’ we’re not going to use two left-handed pitchers. You are not going to be able to know that and I’m not going to tell media that because then everybody in Detroit is going to know that. So, there are going to be some things where you are sitting in the stands (wondering), ‘Why are you doing that?’ I’m good. I can take that.
        “I will be an aggressive manger when I need to be aggressive, also. I’ll be very patient with the pitching because that is their bread and butter right now. There are some young kids who are coming up that need to learn the game of baseball, and that is a hard lesson. You talk to the grounds crew — I had the honor of meeting them today. They will be out for early work, too. That is the kind of manager I’ll be — pretty simple, straight forward. Does that make sense?”.”
        Prince replaces Doug Mientkiewicz, who managed the Mud Hens for the past two seasons, which included a 2018 International League West Division title.
        The Mud Hens open the 2020 season at Indianapolis on Thursday, April 9, with Opening Day at Fifth Third Field on Thursday, April 16 against Indianapolis.


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