Mud Hens' Tom Prince reaches 500 wins as minor-league manager

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Jul. 3—In his first season as Toledo Mud Hens manager and second season overall with the Detroit Tigers organization, Mud Hens skipper Tom Prince achieved a milestone Thursday.

Toledo defeated the Columbus Clippers Thursday night, 4-2, to give Prince 500 managerial victories. It was the Mud Hens' fourth-straight win as they remain in second place in the Triple-A East Midwest Division.

"I didn't even know. I was just very appreciative of them putting it up [on the scoreboard] and stuff like that," Prince said during Thursday's postgame Zoom interview. "But the biggest thing is the players. They help with all those wins and everything like that. We don't do nothing. We just get credit for them and that's nothing."

A big factor in managing at the Triple-A level is dealing with the constant movement and reconfiguration of the roster. Despite the almost daily roster moves, Prince has managed the Mud Hens to a 28-22 record, putting the team five games back of the first-place Omaha Storm Chasers.

"There's an influx of people that come and go to help the major league team. But we've been pretty solid in the foundation of the hitters here for the most part," he said. "Our outfielders have left us, our catchers have moved around a little bit. The infield's been up and down, but they've played pretty well. They're consistent when they come back, they get as much work up there. It's fun."

Prince was hired as the Mud Hens manager in December, 2019. The coronavirus pandemic canceled what would've been Prince's first season at the helm of the club. Instead, he ran the Tigers' alternate site at Fifth Third Field alongside his coaching staff.

In his role with the Mud Hens, Prince has emphasized the importance of player development, something that has reflected in his managerial decisions.

In Thursday night's win over the Clippers, Mud Hens reliever Angel De Jesus cruised through his first inning of relief and retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth. He proceeded to allow two runs on two walks and two base hits, but Prince kept his 24-year-old reliever in the game for the learning experience.

"We talk about 500 wins and stuff like that, that was a game I wanted that young man to finish. No matter if you win or lose it. It's part of the development process down there," he said. "That's a big-league arm right there. That kid's got a really bright future, and you've got to let him battle through them circumstances. And that's what we did."

The decision paid off. De Jesus forced Trenton Brooks to pop up to the third baseman, with runners on second and third, to record his first save of the season.

Prince's ability to develop players was one of the factors in the Tigers' choice to hire him, Detroit Tigers Vice President of Player Development Dave Littlefield said in a statement when the club announced his hiring.

"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," Littlefield said in the release. "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."

Prince played parts of 17 seasons at the major league level with Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Kansas City.

He began his managerial career in 2004 with the then-High A Lynchburg Hillcats, before stints with Low-A Williamsport, High-A Bradenton, and Double-A Altoona. He was Pittsburgh's bench coach from 2017-19.

"All the teams you've managed over the years, you look back and thank the players because it's all about them," Prince said. "That's the way development is. And I've been a development guy since I started."

First Published July 2, 2021, 3:26pm

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