COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The Detroit Tigers have named former Major League All-Star Mike Henneman as pitching coach of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
Henneman returns to professional baseball 16 years after retiring as a Major League Baseball pitcher. This is his first assignment as a professional coach, but he brings a wealth of experience in coaching young baseball players to the position.
Henneman was drafted by the Tigers in the fourth round of the 1984 amateur draft out of Oklahoma State University. He was named The Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year in 1987 and finished sixth in American League Rookie of the Year voting after posting an 11-3 record with seven saves and a 2.98 ERA. He led all Tigers relief pitchers in both wins and ERA in 1987 and 1988, he led the American League in won-loss percentage (.786) in 1987, and in 1989, he was elected to the American League All-Star Team.
Henneman held the all-time saves record for the Tigers (154) until Todd Jones broke that record in 2006. He was traded to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later (Phil Nevin) on August 10, 1995 (the same day that Tigers star Kirk Gibson retired). He was granted free agency after the 1995 season and signed with the Texas Rangers in 1996, where he put up a career-high 31 saves in his final season before retiring. During his 10-year Major League career, he amassed a 57-42 record with 193 saves and a 3.21 ERA. He was placed on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot in 2001.
After his retirement, Henneman founded a select youth baseball team in McKinney, Texas, to give his sons quality instruction in competitive youth baseball. That team grew into an organization of teams and eventually became the McKinney Marshals Youth Baseball Organization, which includes the premier Texas Collegiate League team as well as 15 select youth teams ranging in age from 7 to 18. The Marshals are considered one of the top select baseball programs in the country, winning 14 national championships and one world championship and sending nearly 100 players on to collegiate baseball since 2004, including the Tigers' top two picks in the 2012 amateur draft, Jake Thompson and Austin Schotts (second and third round, respectively). Baltimore Orioles 2012 opening day starting pitcher Jake Arietta is also a former Marshals player who began working with Henneman at age 12.
In addition to serving as co-owner, president and roving pitching instructor for the Marshals, Henneman developed a 75-acre state-of-the-art sports complex with 15 baseball/softball fields to house the organization. The complex includes two professional sized fields with locker rooms, press boxes and seating for 2,500, plus a training academy, pro shop, and concessions. It was completed in 2004.
This coming April won't be Henneman's first visit to Fifth Third Ballpark; he was honored as the former Tiger celebrity on August 6, 2010 as part of the Whitecaps' annual Tiger Friday series.
Henneman said he looks forward to coming "home" to the Tigers.
"I'm so excited to be coming on board with the Tigers organization," Henneman said. "To me, it's like home - I came up with the Tigers; my career started there. I'm fortunate to be back with them. With these young minor league guys, it's all about learning their personalities and working with them in the way that works best for them, without forcing anything down their throats, because that will run them off.
"These guys in Class A ball have the skills and they know what they want, so it's just a matter of teaching them how to be successful. I've got a bit of a wacky personality, so if we're talking about something serious, I think I can make the point in a way that these guys will listen. We're going to have a lot of fun next season at Fifth Third Ballpark."
Tigers Director of Player Development Dave Owen said he is happy to bring Henneman back to the Tigers family.
"We are very happy and pleased that he's joined our organization," Owen said. "He brings a tremendous knowledge of the game, and I really look forward to pairing him with Larry Parrish and having a wonderful Whitecaps staff to help our young kids as they come through the organization. I look forward to an exciting 2013 baseball season in West Michigan."
The Whitecaps coaching staff is now set, with Larry Parrish as manager, Scott Dwyer returning as hitting coach and Henneman as pitching coach.
The Whitecaps open the 2013 season at home on Thursday, April 4th against the Dayton Dragons at 6:35 p.m. Season and group tickets are now on sale, and individual game tickets will be available in late January. Complete ticket information, including season and group ticket prices and perks, is available at www.whitecapsbaseball.com.