Mike Henneman tells Tigers he's leaving organization

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — A rising star in the Tigers' minor-league circles has decided to leave the organization.

Mike Henneman, the former Detroit closer who spent the last two years as pitching coach at Single-A West Michigan, told The News on Friday afternoon he's accepted a job in suburban Dallas, where he lives.

Henneman will be a pitching coach and run camps, among other duties, at the D-Bat baseball academy, a massive organization which has 15 locations in Texas and several others elsewhere in the United States.

He is leaving despite the Tigers' best effort to keep him. They offered him a promotion to Double-A Erie pitching coach, and even offered him Tripe-A type money. But it wasn't enough to sway Henneman, who thanked GM Dave Dombrowski and Dave Owen, director of player development, for the opportunity.

"My heart will always be with Detroit," Henneman said.

The Tigers and Henneman parted on good terms, and both parties left open the possibly of a reunion, perhaps in a couple years after Henneman's youngest child, Karli, graduates from high-school.

For now, the months away from his Texas home, plus the long bus rides, have taken their toll.

"Those are years I can't get back," Henneman said, of really wanting to stick around home to watch Karli graduate high school. "I also can reintroduce myself to my wife. 'Hi, I'm Mike!'"

Henneman, 52, earned rave reviews for his two years in West Michigan. On his watch, several former Whitecaps pitchers made a stunningly fast rise to the major leagues, including, this year, Corey Knebel, Buck Farmer and Chad Smith.

He also is credited with getting several guys on the right path, with mechanical fixes, most notably Jonathon Crawford, the Tigers' first-round pick last June, as well as guys like Austin Kubitza and Kevin Ziomek. West Michigan had the second-best ERA and second-most strikeouts in the Midwest League this year.

The Tigers wanted Henneman to shift to Erie, so he could keep working with many of the pitchers he helped groom in West Michigan. Eventually, a reunion with good friend Larry Parrish at Triple-A Toledo seemed like a probable destination.

Henneman pitched 10 years in the major leagues, nine with the Tigers, with whom he had 154 saves, second-most in franchise history.