Toledo Mud Hens Season Wrap Up

Like the James Taylor song, "Fire and Rain", the Mud Hens have seen it all this past season—honor, victory and defeat. But the good thing about baseball is that it never ends.

The 'Hens started the season 5-2 in their first full week, only to finish the month of April at 17-9. They're seven game winning streak, which started April 23, gave insight to a season that almost was.

July 27, 'Fast' Freddy Guzman broke into the Mud Hens' record books when he swiped two bags against Pawtucket to set the Modern-Era single season stolen base record. In 1899 Jeremiah McDonough set the record with 80. What's even more impressive is that he played 30 games for Erie, early on in the year, where he stole 15 bags, making his overall total on the year 71.

The most interesting story this year is the number of call-ups the 'Hens had that contributed to the Tigers dismal season. The 'Hens they called up were one of the lone bright spots on a forgettable year. So much in fact, that come spring training in 2009, Toledo will have much of it's roster competing in opening day roster spots for Detroit.

The Western Division was neck-and-neck with Toledo and Louisville nearing the end of July. The offense didn't come through and the 'Hens found themselves well out of first place by August. Louisville can even make a case for truly defending off their competition for first place. Toledo was 4-9 at Louisville and 3-6 at Fifth Third Field. When the season ended, Toledo was 75-69 (.521), 13 games out of first.

July 28- In the bottom of twelfth against Pawtucket, Timo Perez struck out swinging on a wild pitch that advanced him to first and Freddy Guzman to home for the walk off wild pitch winning (5-4) run.

June 12- In a single at-bat versus Indianapolis, Mike Hessman hit a shot to left that was ruled a home run. But when the umpires got together, it was eventually ruled a foul. When Hessman stepped back up to the plate to finish the at-bat, he knocked an obvious home run in the same spot. As he touched home he muttered a few words to the umpire that declined his first shot and was ejected. Later in the inning, the same umpire tossed Parrish and Neal, giving the 'Hens three ejected players in the same inning.

July 30- Fifth Third marked its 200th sell-out. From July 9 through August 24, the 'Hens set a new record of 16 straight sell-out games.

April 20- Hessman knocked three home runs in a game against Louisville, making him the third player in Fifth Third Field's history to ever accomplish the feat.

July 27/August 26- Hessman and Blaine Neal were selected to the USA Olympic Baseball team in Beijing. They came back almost a month later with the bronze medal.

Brent Clevlen has played in the most games and has seen every piece of the outfield. He had eight errors in the field, but improved his speed and agility in the 2007 off-season. Clevlen has good range and can laser the ball from the deepest parts of the outfield. There was a play August 13, against the Louisville Bats, where a ball was hit by Paul Janish into the deepest part of Fifth Third's center field. Clevlen hit the gas and spread his arms apart, catching the ball over his head and into his glove for the third out before Superman-sliding on his stomach. That catch right alone is worthy of a defensive stud pick.

Who has been the best call up all year for the Tigers?

The Minor Leagues are the roots that keep Major League Baseball alive. A handful of 'Hens could go here, but there is only one obvious pick: Matt Joyce.

In the 78 games he has played, he is hitting .260 with 33 RBI off 54 hits and 12 home runs. His strikeouts are high at 52, but he swung hard and really took advantage of his time in the majors. Joyce has seen more big league action than any Mud Hen this season. When next year comes, don't be surprised to find Joyce in the Tigers opening day roster.

1. Dusty Ryan ('08: .315 average)- He might be the only person in the Tigers organization to actually like the Pudge Rodriguez/Kyle Farnsworth trade. Ryan's name was never really mentioned much until the gold glove catcher was traded. Now, people are talking about starting catcher possibilities for next year, seeing that Inge isn't a permanent solution. Big catchers are the trend in the bigs right now (Example: Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Joe Mauer). Ryan is 6-foot-4, 220-pounds of pure raw ability that will be exciting to watch grow as a ball player.

2. Jeff Larish ('08: 21 home runs; 96 hits)- Look for him to pick up where he left off. Watching him on the field, he resembles a young Ted Williams of the infield. Ok, he's no Splendid Splinter yet, but don't let his lackadaisical style fool you. This guy can play.

3. Mike Hollimon ('08: 56 runs; 33 RBI)- The former Oral Roberts alum shared time between shortstop and second base, while making occasional trips to Detroit to enjoy the major league life. Holliman did exceptionally well for the Tigers in '08; he did even better for the Mud Hens. He's a switch-hitter who does equally well on both sides of the plate and contributes greatly in the field. He's neither flashy nor boring; Holliman is more of an all-around type player. He's a top five-rated prospect in the Tigers' organization, and is a very solid player with quite a future ahead of him if he improves his hitting power.

4. Kody Kirkland ('08: 34 games; 27 hits; 7 doubles)- He is a sleeper that will turn heads next season. At 6-foot-4, he's a lanky player that could share time with Hessman at first and third base next season. His hitting has become progressively better and seems to be clutch at times. With the right coaching and a strong off-season, look for the Idaho native to turn heads next year.

The Tigers have sent a few big leaguers down the farm this year to recover from various injuries. Who has been the real deal for their time spent?

Mr. Versatile: Brandon Inge is the chosen one. He had two errors in his three-game stint, but provided four RBI off three hits and one home run in Toledo's three-game winning streak with him on the roster.

2009 will be a very interesting year for Toledo. They just missed the playoffs and have had so many player promotions to the big club, that they will come into next year hungry for a change; Larry Parrish wouldn't have it any other way.

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