Pirates bench coach Tom Prince named next Mud Hens manager

Prince, a 55-year-old Illinois native, spent the past two seasons as bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

By Brian Buckey / The Blade
Tue, 03 Dec 2019 20:20:59 GMT

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Tom Prince has done a little bit of it all when it comes to professional baseball, from a 17-year major league career as a catcher to experience as a minor league manager to time as a major league bench coach.

The most recent step in the baseball journey for the 55-year old Illinois native will be to lead the Toledo Mud Hens for the 2020 season, as the Detroit Tigers named him as the next manager of their Triple-A affiliate.

Prince will take over for Doug Mientkiewicz, who was fired following his second season as Mud Hens manager.

“I look forward to it and it's a new challenge and a new chapter in my career,” Prince told The Blade. “Being that it is a rebuilding job, they are looking on the upside to win. Just looking at their roster, they have a ton of pitching prospects that are off the charts right now. I'm looking forward to it.”

In his 17-year big league career, Prince was with five teams – the Pirates, Dodgers, Phillies, Twins, and Royals. He was a career .208 hitter with 24 home runs and 140 RBIs.

His managerial experience includes stops in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization with the High-A Bradenton Marauders and the Double-A Altoona Curve. For the past three seasons, he was the bench coach for the Pirates at the major league level.

“Tom fits in real well because he has a wide range of experience as a player, a coach in the minor leagues, as a bench coach in the major leagues,” Tigers Vice President of Player Development Dave Littlefield told The Blade.

“That kind of experience will be very valuable for an organization like ourselves that is developing our own players and giving a lot of guys some opportunities to get to the big leagues and hopefully start moving us to that championship-level team.”

From his wide range of experiences in baseball, Prince has a long list of managerial influences that have helped form his style – familiar names like Terry Collins, Jim Leyland, Tommy Lasorda, Clint Hurdle, Terry Francona, and Ron Gardenhire as well as some of his impactful minor league influences like Dave Trembley, Woody Huyke, and Rocky Bridges.

“You try to take a little bit from each and every one of them and build it into your own,” he said.

Littlefield became impressed with not only the experience that Prince can bring to Toledo but also his way of dealing with the players under his watch as well as keeping up with the latest trends in the game.

“I think his experience as a catcher will help,” Littlefield said. “He was always known as a real heady, intellectual, hard-nosed performer. As he has evolved with experience as a coach at different major league and minor league levels, he is very serious about his craft and his desires to do bigger and better things. He is a no-nonsense guy yet has a good feel for the present-day player. He's in tune to the present-day analytics and technology that is going on. He brings a nice blend.”

Some of the present-day players Littlefield speaks of could include some of the top prospects in the Tigers system who might start the 2020 season in Toledo or spend some time with the Mud Hens at some point in the season. Those could include prized pitching prospects Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, and Alex Faedo as well as highly-touted infield prospect Isaac Paredes.

As a former catcher, Prince can't help but be excited to potentially work with that pitching talent, but he is chomping at the bit to work with all the Toledo players.

“No doubt,” Prince said. “The game is about pitching, and we all know that. I have to get these guys prepared and help them get to the big leagues and get to Detroit. ... Right now, it's about getting to know [the players] and building a relationship with them. They have to know that you trust them and you care about them and you can get them better. They don't want to hear about what you've done in the game or anything, it's ‘Can you help me get better?’ Our job is to help them get to the big leagues and help them in any way we can.”