Northwoods League: Henning back at Stingers' helm


A familiar face will be at the helm of the Willmar Stingers come summertime.

Bo Henning had been named the Willmar Stingers' field manager for the 2018 Northwoods League season following a stint as the team's pitching coach and interim manager in 2017, the Stingers announced Wednesday.

Henning credited the relationship he formed with Stingers front office members and the community for giving him the desire to return for a second year.

"It's pretty much the trust I built with (co-owners) Marc (Jerzak) and Ryan (Voz) and everyone from top to bottom with the Stingers that made me want to come back," Henning said. "Everyone in the organization is easy to work with. Our personalities match up well."

Henning took over as interim manager for the final two weeks of the 2017 regular season and Willmar's playoff game against St. Cloud after then-manager Eric Vasquez accepted another collegiate coaching position.

"It turned out to be a good thing to manage those last couple of weeks last year and get a taste for it," Henning said. "It's going to be nice this year to be able to have a couple guys on staff with me that I can hire and come in with a lot of trust built."

Al Leyva will be one of those assistants for the upcoming season. Leyva, along with Henning, is an assistant coach at Sacramento City College.

Leyva has coached at nearly every level, spanning from high school to the minor leagues with the Chicago White Sox rookie ball team in Bristol, Tennessee.

At Bristol, Leyva served as an assistant coach to his brother, Nick Leyva, who also spent time as a Major League first base coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 2017 season marked Leyva's sixth as the manager of the Newport Gulls of the NEBCL summer collegiate league.

In Henning and Leyva, the Stingers will retain a strong connection with players from Sacramento City. In 2017, pitchers Polo Portela and Nick Mears were among the top hurlers in the league and played an integral role in the Stingers' fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

"Last year, I wanted to bring in a couple of slam dunks that I knew were going to do well, so that helps going forward," Henning said. "We've got three of four players in mind for this next year, but we'll leave those spots open until spring and see how they play out."