The Right Toole for the Job
Ronnie Tellalian | On 16, Jul 2013
There is a big smile in the clubhouse in Canal Park after every game. That smile belongs to Aeros utility man Justin Toole. He is one of the guys that fans should love; he’s a hard worker and loves what he does. Most professional baseball players have some degree of love for the game, but Toole truly loves the game. He loves to go out and play every day, no matter what position, or what level. He is one of the rare few that really make the experience enjoyable all the way through. At 26 years old, Toole may never see a Major League at bat, but he goes out every day to play the game he loves.
Toole was signed by the Cleveland Indians out of the Independent Leagues. There are several professional baseball leagues around the country that are no affiliated with a Major League club, these are known as independent teams. He was playing for the Sioux City Explorers out of the American Association in 2009 when the Indians signed him and placed him with their Arizona League team. Over the past five seasons, Toole has played at every Minor League level in the Indians organization.
Last season for the Carolina Mudcats, Toole joined a very exclusive club. On August 25, 2012, He played all nine positions in a game against the Salem Red Sox. He started out in right field and ended the day on the mound, closing out the ninth inning to preserve a 4-2 Mudcats victory. It was a day planned out by then Carolina Manager, and current Aeros Manager, Edwin Rodriguez.
“In the beginning of the season [Rodriguez] asked me where I could play,” Toole said. “I told him ‘anywhere’. He told me I would play all nine later in the year, he picked that night and we just had fun with it.”
He performed well at each spot he manned, but catching seemed to pose the greatest concern.
“I’d never played the position before, that was the one that worried me,” Toole said. “I’d been catching bullpens for about two weeks to get ready, but I was still nervous.”
Toole started this season once again in Carolina, the level that he has spent the vast majority of his professional career. He was batting a mere .196 in 28 games when he got the call up to Akron. Room needed to be made and the Aeros had roster space that needed to be filled. With Jose Ramirez out with an injury, Toole was the safe choice to fill in on the infield. It would prove to be a fantastic move as Toole has thrived thus far with the Aeros.
In 32 games at Akron, Toole is enjoying what is possibly his best minor league campaign. Through 128 plate appearances, he is batting .310 with a .381 on-base percentage. These are the best numbers he has put up since his 2009 stint in the Arizona Rookie League.
“It’s just been a lot of fun,” Toole said. “I love it here, the atmosphere is great. There are a lot of young guys on the team, but no egos, just a ton of enthusiasm.”
Toole was in the midst of a five game hitting streak in sporadic starts from June 30-July 8 before being sent back down to Carolina on July 12. Toole is a one of the good guys, just a kid that loves to play baseball. It doesn’t matter where he plays on the field, or at what level, he’s happy to be where he is.
The Aeros have struggled as of late, losing three of their four games last week. They maintain their fourth place position in the Eastern League Western Division with a 45-49 record. Akron dropped the first two games of their four game series against the Altoona Curve. They were shutout in game one 7-0, then lost game two 3-1. Aeros pitcher Will Roberts took the loss despite a very strong pitching performance. He went seven innings, gave up just two runs and struck out six. They Aeros pulled out the game three 10-3 victory. Paulo Espino got the win with four shutout innings, and Indians starter Zach McAllister pitched 3.1 in his rehab start, giving up two runs and striking out five. Jesus Aguilar hit his ninth home run on the season, and Carlos Moncrief smacked out four hits. Akron lost game four on a day Altoona just seemed to have their number. Jose Flores gave up four runs in the ninth to seal the deal. They currently sit 6.5 games out of first place.
Photo: Kenneth Sinchak