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Dan Hennigan Is a Rare Atlantic League Grad

Dan Hennigan has already grown a couple of inches.  His new team, the Great Lakes Loons (Midland, MI) of the Midwest League have their newly-signed infielder listed at 5-foot-7.  His recent manager in Camden, Chris Widger, mentioned 5-foot-5 and the Riversharks' media information had him at 5-foot-6.

Regardless of his actual height, Hennigan, who plays second, short and third, is a rare Atlantic League grad to have his contract purchased by a major league organization in that he does not have previous affiliated experience and he is only 25 years old. 

Hennigan hit .229 as a professional newcomer with Somerset in 2012 and 2013 shortly after leaving Franklin Pierce University.  He only had five extra-base hits (all doubles) and drove in a mere 12 runs in 97 games.  Then a hip injury cost him all of last season.  Widger signed the 150-pound infielder this year "as my utility infielder", but had him playing regularly at second base (.227, .337 on-base, 8 RBI in 23 games) with Paddy Matera out with an injury when the Los Angeles Dodgers' Director of Player Development Gabe Kapler called to discuss signing him.

"He deserves a shot", Widger told me, while comparing Hennigan's approach of charging plays and finding great angles to overcoming his lack of arm strength for short and third to that of former World Series star David Eckstein, who was listed at 5-foot-6 1/2.

Hennigan has been activated by the Loons with his initial game still to come.

Memories of Atlantic City and the NY Mets

If new New York Mets catcher Johnny Monell's name seems familiar, it just might be because his father, Johnny Monell, Sr., played the outfield for Atlantic City when the Surf were in the Atlantic League from 1998-2001.

“Dad I’m going to the big leagues,” Monell, Sr. told The Press of Atlantic City of a text he received from his 29-year-old son recently.  “Stop messing around I’m in the delivery room (awaiting the arrival of a new daughter),” the elder Monell said he texted back.

Monell, Sr., now 51, who never reached the majors during his 17-year playing career but had .310 and .320 averages in two of his Atlantic City seasons, shared a story with the newspaper of a day with the Surf when 6-foot-1, 220-pound catcher Hector Villanueva allowed a youthful Monell, Jr. to try on his catcher’s equipment, which made for a comical scene.  “I peeked outside (a few minutes later) and saw him (in the Sandcastle bullpen catching a pitcher) and let it be.  After the session, he walked in (to the clubhouse) with the oversized gear and the first words out of his mouth were, ‘Dad, I want to catch.’”

In his only other trip to the majors in 2013 Johnny, Jr. went 1-for-8 in, eight games for San Francisco.  He has one hit in 14 at-bats covering 10 games with the Mets.  “It was a big-time hit,” a proud Monell, Sr. said of the pinch-hit two-run double in the eighth that helped New York beat Philadelphia 7-4 at Citizens Bank Park.  “A clutch hit.  I was jacked.”  He was in the crowd, as one might expect.

Jake Fox Now in Korea

With Jake Fox, the Atlantic League's Player of the Year two seasons ago at Somerset, still banging home runs but no major league opportunities aside from spring training since 2011 the 32-year-old has accepted a reported $120,000 deal and moved on to play for the Hanwha Eagles in Korea.

The onetime University of Michigan star was a non-roster invitee to Toronto's major league spring training camp in March, and had 15 extra-base hits among 30 safeties with the Blue Jays' Double-A team in the Eastern League before moving on.  He had five homers, 19 RBI and a .278 average in 29 games before leaving.

Fox, who homered 25 times and drove in 82 runs in his big season with Somerset, has played in 193 major league games while compiling figures of .237-20-73.

Previously the chief spokesman for Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about the Atlantic League and Independent Baseball since 2003.  He will be a frequent contributor to this site as well as writing his blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.



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