Ex-Tiger Maroth to mentor Mud Hens armsWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a saying in baseball: “Pitching wins championships.” That seems like simple enough logic, but behind every great pitching staff is a pitching coach.
This year, the Mud Hens welcome a familiar face to fill that role — former Detroit Tiger and Mud Hens pitcher Mike Maroth.
Maroth played in Toledo during 2001 and 2002, while the team was transitioning from its previous location at the Ned Skeldon Stadium in Maumee to its new digs at Fifth Third in Downtown Toledo.
“The fans were great,” Maroth said.
Maroth went on to pitch for the big league club in Detroit from 2002-07 as a staple in the starting rotation through a few rough years and into the new age of Tiger domination in the AL Central. He amassed 50 wins during his six-season career in major league baseball with the Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Once his time as a player had come to an end, a new opportunity presented itself — one that he had never considered during his time on the mound.
“I never saw myself as a coach while playing,” Maroth said. “I didn’t even entertain the thought, which is crazy, because now it’s what I’m doing and I love it.”
In 2011, Maroth became a coach for Detroit’s class A affiliate, the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Florida.
“Once my career was over, I wanted to know some options about staying in professional baseball,” Maroth said. “The opportunity to coach in Lakeland came up. I was living in Orlando, so it was a good fit and opportunity for me to try it out while still living at home. It didn’t have an impact on my family as it would if I were leaving for the summer and not seeing them for extended periods of time. That was very appealing and it allowed me to give it a try and see if I liked it.
“After I started, it was something I fell in love with doing.”
Despite his relatively short service time as a pitching coach, Maroth has begun to develop his own philosophy on the craft, and he especially emphasizes adaptability to different personalities.
“There are many approaches to coaching,” Maroth explained. “Everyone’s a little bit different. I try to cater to each player separately and evaluate all aspects of pitching, whether it is things like mechanics or their approach to games. I try to evaluate each pitcher separately, because everyone’s got different strengths and weaknesses, and then I give them feedback.”
Maroth said that one of his primary roles as a coach is to provide his pitchers with information and plenty of encouragement.
“This game is very much about failure. There’s enough failure that happens in the game, and I want to be someone who is always encouraging to them.”
Maroth said confidence can sometimes be an issue when working with so many young pitchers trying to work their way up to the majors, but not every case is the same.
“There are guys who are young and very mentally mature and can handle those situations, and there are players who are older and still struggle with handling the mental aspect, the adversity and the pressure. If a pitcher doesn’t have confidence in himself, then it is going to be very difficult for him to do his job. They’ve got to believe in themselves.”
Maroth is excited and optimistic about the roster of players he is working with now that he is back in a Toledo uniform.
“We’ve got a good mix of pitchers,” Maroth said. “We’ve got some junk pitchers, and we’ve got some guys that have been around and some hard throwers. It’s a real good mix and balance of different styles. That’s always good, because it gives opposing teams some different looks.”
Maroth said the Hens pitching staff got an unexpected boost on the other side of the plate when Tigers catcher Bryan Holaday was recently assigned to Toledo to help with handling the Hens staff.
“It’s going to be very valuable having him around,” Maroth said. “He’s a great guy and great catcher. He is going to bring a lot to our staff, because he’s going to know how to work with these guys.”
“Obviously, you like to see him in the big leagues, but to have a guy like that is very valuable. It will really be helpful to these guys, especially those who are at AAA for the first time.”
Maroth also described some of the things he expects from his pitching staff come Opening Day, and he expressed confidence in their ability to perform.
“The most important thing to do as a pitcher is to throw strikes. We’ve got some guys here at spring training who are doing that and are not afraid to attack the plate. I expect them to come out of the pen ready to get hitters out. We’ll have some hard throwers coming into the game throwing strikes.”
Maroth hopes to see some of his players take the field in Detroit.
“I want to help these guys,” Maroth said. “I’m looking forward to watching these guys succeed and move up, and watching them chase their dreams, as I once did, and to help them any way I can.
“It’s exciting to see their reactions and watch them pursue something they love to do. It was the same thing [for me] when I was at Lakeland, only now when these guys move up, they are going to the big leagues. That’s pretty exciting, because that’s their dream.”