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Ex-manager Fields working for Indians

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Ex-manager Fields working for Indians

By JOHN WAGNERBLADE SPORTS WRITER

Bruce Fields was in a familiar place earlier this week - but it was unfamiliar at the same time.

The former Mud Hens manager was at Fifth Third Field for Monday's game against Columbus. But he was in the visitors' dugout and clubhouse, since he now is the minor-league hitting coordinator for the Clippers' parent club, the Indians.

"It was a little tough navigating into the [visiting] dugout [from the visiting clubhouse]," Fields said with a laugh. "But I have nothing but fond memories of this ballpark."

Fields has been involved in Mud Hens baseball on and off since 1987, when he hit .305 with 24 stolen bases in 123 games for the Hens. Fields, who spent time in the majors with Detroit (1986) and Seattle (1988-89), was a Mud Hens coach in 1993-94 before starting his managing career.

Fields served as manager here in 2001, the final year of Skeldon Stadium, and in 2002, the year Fifth Third Field opened. In that first year in the new ballpark, Fields led the Hens to their first playoff berth since 1984.

"That was a wonderful season," he said. "We won the division that year, and it was a lot of fun.

"It was a great way to open up a new ballpark. We had sellout crowds night after night, and it was a fun place to be."

Fields left after that season to become Alan Trammell's hitting coach in 2003 and spent three seasons in that role.

"For me, it was a great experience because it allowed me to get back to the big leagues and coach," Fields said. "I felt we impacted the young players who went on and had some success after we left.

"It allowed me to grow as a coach and become better."

After Trammell and his staff were dismissed after the 2005 season, Fields joined Cleveland's organization. After spending one year as a coach for Triple-A Buffalo, Fields accepted his current position with the Indians.

"It's been a wonderful transition, coming over here and learning more about teaching, communicating and organizing - everything it takes to develop players," he said.

Fields said he still follows the Tigers, the team that drafted him in 1978.

"I still live in Detroit, so I can't help but follow them," Fields said. "I don't know a lot of the guys in the organization because there's always transition, but I'm there, and I'm in baseball, so I have an interest in what is happening."

Fields isn't sure what his future holds, but he's happy just to have a job in baseball.

"I love what I'm doing because I'm still on the field, and I'm still teaching," Fields said. "I'm watching games, but I'm studying the players on a different level.

"I'd love to get back to the big leagues, but I know I'd have to come back and manage if I wanted to take that road. Right now I'm happy with being a hitting coordinator, trying to help our organization produce quality major-league hitters."

PLAYOFF WATCH: The Mud Hens' impressive 15-5 start in August - the best record in the International League in that span - has kept the team's faint playoff hopes alive.

Toledo begins a four-game home series with Louisville tonight and needs to win all four contests to have any chance of winning the West Division. The Hens began play last night trailing the Bats by 8.5 games in the West.

The Bats "magic" number to win the division stood at 10 entering play last night, meaning Louisville needs any combination of 10 wins or Toledo losses to win the division. Any Hens loss to the Bats would lessen the magic number by two.

Toledo's chances in the Wild Card race are slightly better, since the Hens trail Durham by just five games. The problem is that the Mud Hens don't have any more games against the three teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race - the Bulls, Syracuse and Norfolk - meaning the Hens will need help to make up ground in that race.

The Mud Hens "tragic" number for elimination in the Wild Card race stands at 13.

STREAKING: SS Brent Dlugach hopes to continue a streak tonight as the Hens return home to begin an eight-game homestand.

Dlugach has reached base via a hit, walk, or hit batsman in 23 consecutive home games, a streak that began on July 9.

That streak is the fifth-longest in the International League this season. It is just two shy of the league-high 25 straight home games set by Brad Eldred of Syracuse.

FIRST PITCH: Pierce Mitchell will throw out the first pitch before today's game. Mitchell is the eight-year-old native of Hudson, Mich., who was hit by a bat that flew out of the hands of Jeff Larish June 24.

CATCHING UP: A hot August has given Lehigh Valley's Andy Tracy a chance to lead the IL in both home runs and RBIs. Tracy, a Bowling Green native and BGSU product, has tied Toledo's Mike Hessman by hitting a league-high six home runs this month, and he has an IL-best 20 August RBIs in just 19 games. That gives Tracy 24 home runs and 84 RBIs this season, second in the league in both categories. Tracy trails IL leader Shelley Duncan of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre by just three home runs and only two RBIs.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.comor 419-724-6481.

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