On Saturday, the Carolina Mudcats did a unique promotion to honor their super-utilityman Justin Toole. Manager Edwin Rodriguez decided to make the day "Toole Time," and let Toole play all 9 positions on the diamond in the 9 inning game, including catching the 8th and pitching the 9th inning. In addition to that, Toole did the pre-game radio show with Mudcats broadcaster Darren Headrick and took the lineup cards out to the umpires before the game. It was a great way to celebrate the contributions of Toole this year, who had already played 1B, 2B, 3B, SS and LF this season. Toole has appeared in games with Carolina, Akron and Columbus this year, and has filled a valuable role on those teams despite not being considered an elite prospect. Toole is 25 years old and is hitting .228/.268/.274 in 285 AB between all three levels this year. He's not going to appear in anyone's Indians top ten prospects list this offseason, but he's a leader in the clubhouse who sets a great example for the younger guys in the organization to follow. Players like Toole are important to the organization in ways that their batting averages will never reflect, as there's no stat for Toole helping 19-year old Tony Wolters adjust to his first full season of professional baseball.
As for the game itself, Toole went 1-4 with a single at the plate, and played (in order), RF-CF-LF-1B-2B-SS-3B-C-P. Toole was the Bob Feller Award Winner as the top prep pitcher in the state of Iowa his senior year in HS, so pitching is hardly foregin to him. He actually worked a 1-2-3 inning in relief for the Kinston Indians back in 2010. Toole entered the 9th with a 4-0 lead, and got the first hitter he faced to pop out. The next two hitters hit back-to-back HR, which brought pitching coach Scott Erickson out of the dugout for a little chat. Whatever he said must have worked, as Toole came back to strike out the last two hitters and preserve the 4-2 Mudcat victory.
Toole's accomplishment got some nice run in the national press. ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted out the link to the MiLB.com story on Toole, MLB Network featured the story on it's program "The Rundown," USA Today posted an article...Toole was the focus of a lot of attention this weekend. It's a great story for one of the really good guys in the Indians organization, and it's really great to see his versatility recognized. Kudos to manager Edwin Rodriguez for coming up with the idea, and to Toole for being a good enough athlete to pull it off. In case you're wondering, Toole is on twitter as @Tooleyj24, and is one of those players who is really great about interacting with the fans. So give him a follow if you haven't already, and show him a little love for his unique and impressive accomplishment on the diamond this past Saturday.
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