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Eric Peterson, Published May 10 2013

RedHawks' Jennings creating his own catcher’s mask

Fargo

Todd Jennings is part Ron Popeil and part Jake Taylor. Popeil is a well-known inventor who hocks his products on infomercials, while Taylor is the veteran catcher from the baseball move “Major League.”

“I have a very creative mind and I like building things,” said Jennings, who plays catcher for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.

Since 2009, Jennings has been trying to develop a better catcher’s mask. He’s hoping he will be using his “hybrid” mask within the next month. Jennings isn’t a big fan of the traditional baseball catcher’s mask or the hockey-style mask.

“Basically what I did was combine the two,” he said. “It’s state of the art.”

Jennings is returning for his third season with the RedHawks, which claimed a 5-4 exhibition win over St. Paul Friday night at Newman Outdoor Field.

“We think we have one of the top catchers in the league,” said RedHawks manager Doug Simunic. “We know that he can block a ball and we know he can throw pretty well.”

Jennings didn’t play baseball in 2009 when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.

That’s when he started toying with the idea of building a better version of the catcher’s mask. So Jennings cut up some coat hangers and taped them together to build a new frame to get started.

“After I got the frame done, I sat on it for like eight months trying to figure out the next step,” Jennings said.

Jennings eventually filed a patent on the new design, which he spent hundreds of hour in developing.

Jennings said a trip to the Scheels All Sports store in Fargo last summer helped him find a company to manufacture the mask.

Scheels is where he learned about Impact Alert chips, which are used to sense when a player has taken a significant blow to the head. Jennings thought that the sensor would be a good addition to his mask so he called the company about the chips.

“I just lucked out,” said Jennings, who batted .239 in 92 games for the RedHawks last season.

Jennings found out that the company manufactures sports equipment, too. He reached an agreement with Canadian-based Presidium Impact Alert to develop his mask, which is made from a carbon powder, Jennings said.

“Right now, it’s getting tested,” Jennings said.

Jennings hopes to be wearing the new mask in games by the end of May or in early June.

“I got a glimpse of it. It’s very NASA,” said Simunic, who was a catcher when he played pro baseball. “It’s very different. It’s got a great look to it. I hope it works out for him. He’s been trying really hard. … He’s excited about it. He’s a real innovative guy.”

RedHawks hold off Saints 5-4

FARGO – The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks out-hit the St.Paul Saints, but needed a play at the plate to hold off the Saints and pick up a 5-4 exhibition victory Friday at Newman Outdoor Field.

The RedHawks began the ninth with a 5-2 lead but that was cut to one run after a Willie Cabrera double scored Brad Boyer and Donald Blunt.

With two outs, Saints third baseman Joey Becker hit a liner up the middle into center field. Cabrera attempted to score from second, but wound up being thrown out by RedHawks outfielder Nick Akins on a one-hopper to catcher Todd Jennings.

Fargo-Moorhead improves to 2-2 in exhibition play with the victory.

Buddy Sosnoskie and Keith Brachold had three hits apiece, while combining for three RBIs. Tim Alberts went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Jose Garcia also had two hits with a run scored.

Taylor Stanton started for the RedHawks and pitched three 1-2-3 innings. Alex Sunderland earned the victory after pitching two scoreless innings of relief, allowing one hit and picking up a strikeout.

SP 000 200 002–4 6 1

FM 002 010 110–5 11 0

Gutierrez, Bruback (4), Spottiswood (7), Klabunde (8) and Childs. Stanton, Garcia (4), Sunderland (7), Levitt (8), Squires (9) and Jennings, Ourso. W–Sunderland. L–Bruback. 2B–SP, Hernandez; Cabrera. FM, Brachold. SB–SP, Hernandez. FM, Sosnoskie.


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Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com