The Mud Hens have called Fifth Third Field home for 10 years, and some terrific players have donned Toledo uniforms in that time.
But who are the best of the best? Starting on Wednesday, April 4, Mud Hen fans will vote on the top players at each of the eight everyday positions on the field, along with designated hitter, starting pitcher and relief pitcher.
In the days leading up to the vote, I'll present some of the players I think are the top candidates for each of those 11 positions, to get you prepared to exercise your vote. The rules for choosing a candidate are simple: the player must have played for the Hens during their time at Fifth Third Field (since 2002), and the player must have played the position in question.
So no ballots for Kirby Puckett, please. And don't nominate Max St-Pierre for centerfield, please.
Ready? Here are the four players I think are the best choices to be the Relief Pitcher on the 10-Year Anniversary Team.
LEE GARDNER: Gardner (left) pitched for the Mud Hens in 2006 and was selected to pitch for the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game held at Fifth Third Field that season. Finished the year with a 5-5 record and 2.92 ERA while collecting 30 saves, setting a single-season Mud Hens record in that category. He was a key contributor to the team that won the Governors' Cup that season. Gardner pitched briefly in the majors for Tampa Bay in both 2002 and '05. He also spent all of the 2007 season with Florida and had seven appearances for the Marlins in 2008.
FRANKLYN GERMAN: German (right) pitched for the Mud Hens in 2002-04. German came to the Tigers along with Carlos Pena and Jeremy Bonderman in the trade that eventually sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. In 2002 German was 1-1 with 13 saves and a 1.59 ERA in 23 games for the Mud Hens; the following year he was 1-4 with four saves and a 2.45 ERA in 24 Toledo games. In 2004 German went 3-5 with 27 saves, the third-highest total in team history, and a 4.59 ERA. German pitched in the majors with Detroit from 2002-05 and also had stints with Florida (2006) and Texas (2008).
JASON KARNUTH: Karnuth (left) pitched for the Mud Hens in 2004-07, and his 163 career appearances for Toledo are the most in modern franchise history (since 1965). In 2004 Karnuth was 5-2 with a pair of saves and a 3.74 ERA, while in 2005 the right-hander set the modern-day record with 63 appearances and was 7-2 with 23 saves, the sixth-highest total in team history, and a 2.13 ERA for the Governors' Cup champs. The next season Karnuth began the year in Sacramento but rejoined the Hens mid-season and helped pitch Toledo to another Governors' Cup, finishing 2-0 with a pair of saves and a 4.08 ERA. In 2007 Karnuth was 2-2 with six saves and a 3.41 ERA as the Hens won their third straight West Division title. Karnuth pitched in four games with St. Louis in 2001 and three with Detroit in 2005 in his only major-league experience.
FERNANDO RODNEY: Rodney (right) pitched for the Mud Hens in 2002-03, then made brief appearances in Toledo in 2005 (three games), '07 (four games) and '08 (two games). In 2002 the right-hander was 1-1 with four saves and a 0.81 ERA for the Hens, while in 2003 he was 1-1 with 23 saves, tied for the sixth-highest single-season total in franchise history, and a 1.33 ERA. Rodney pitched for the Tigers from 2002-03, then 2005-09 and also spent two years with the Angels (2010-11) before signing with Tampa Bay for 2012.
Is there a pitcher you would like to nominate? Click on the "comments" link below and submit your candidate! I'll pick a fifth candidate from the list submitted and add him to the voting box on Wednesday, April 4.