One of the advantages to moving across the country every couple of months is the opportunities it provides for taking in ball games. I am now four days into a new job in New Hampshire and on the way out I got to make a stop in Toledo and check out the world famous Mud Hens. You may remember the Mud Hens as the team Cpl. Klinger was a fan of in M*A*S*H or the team that Lou Brown managed for thirty years, before getting his shot with the Indians, in Major League. I was pretty excited to get to the game and check out the ballpark but, unfortunately, a hangover from the Milwaukee beer party and construction in Illinois and Indiana prevented me from arriving until just about game time.
Let me tell you, I didnt miss that much in downtown Toledo. I pulled off the freeway and right into a parking lot. On the two block walk to the park i passed several boarded up buildings. The entire downtown was deserted. Toledo is the model for Pete's argument that ballparks don't spur economic development (Fifth-Third Field was built in 2002).
The park itself is pretty nice. As I was making my way across Indiana, I did some quick calculations in my head and realizing I wouldn't get to Toledo until game time called ahead and got a ticket. $11 put me in the third row just to the third base side of home plate, not to shabby. Fifth-Third field has a lower deck, an upper deck of club seats and suites around the infield. It also has a group section called The Roost that is in the right field corner and is hung off two existing brick buildings. The concourses are fairly narrow but it was easy to make my way through them between innings. In left and center field the is a concourse where fans can stand above the 12-15 foot high wall. In right field there are two tiers of picnic tables.
The game itself was quite a long affair. The visiting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees teed off in the first inning sending eight men to the plate and pushing across three runs. The Mud Hens scratched one back in the bottom of the inning then took the lead with 3 in the 5th. The Yankees fought back to even the game in the sixth and both teams spent the rest of the game wasting opportunites. In all the Yankees left 9 men on base and the Mud Hens stranded 11. Most of these runners reached with less than two out and there were many times that each time had multiple men on base and a chance to take the lead but blew it. The offensive star for the Mud Hens was Timo Perez, going 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored. In the end Yankees SS, and former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales homered off Francis Beltran in the top of the 12th and the Mud Hens could not draw even in their half of the inning. I did see something at this game that I had never seen before. In the bottom of the 7th with runners on first and second and one out the Mud Hens attempted a sacrifice bunt but Yankees reserve catcher Chris Stewart touched the bat on its way through the zone. The home plate umpire called catcher interference, loading the bases. Of course, the Mud Hens couldn't take advantage as the next batter grounded into an inning ending double-play.
The Mud Hens, and most minor league teams it seems, stretched the Fourth of July into a weekend long celebration and had post game fireworks. Two problems occured with these. First, Sundays are Kids-Run-the-Bases day ad the crowd had to wait for what seemed like all the youths in Toledo run around the bases. Note to promotions people nationwide: Fireworks come before Kids-Run-the-Bases. Secondly, the fireworks display Pete put on in the ally behind his house last Saturday was far superior to that of the Toledo Mud Hens.
So, now I'm in New Hampshire and there are several minor league teams within easy driving distance. Hopefully, I can find some time off and make it to a few games.
park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 6 (nice entrance but concourses are kind of dumpy)
views from park - 1
view to field - 8 (very close all the way around)
surrounding area - 1
food variety - 7 (pretty standard but there was one made-to-order grill)
nachos - 6 (points for effort with chilli-cheese nachos, but chips to sauce ratio far to great)
beer - 4 (only Bud/Bud Light, pretty expensive, but souvenir cups)
vendor price - 8 (other than beer, excellent)
ticket price - 9 (boo service charge for ordering over the phone)
atmosphere - 4 (not too much excitement for the Hens)
walk to park - 1
parking price/proximity - 7 (free street parking if you get there early enough, otherwise $5)
concourses - 5
team shop - 8 (lots of throwback Mud Hens gear but also half the store was dedicated to the Toledo Walleye, a minor-league hockey team that won't even begin play until the 2009-10 season)
best food - Muddy Dog - a chilli cheese dog
most unique stadium feature - The Roost party area
best jumbotron feature - Hot Dog race
best between-inning feature - one night only Rockin' Ray and Sky Dogs USA
field dimensions - 320/404/315
starters - Ross Ohlendorf (SWB) v. Yorman Bazardo (TOL)
opponent - Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees
time of game - 3:39
attendance - 9,515
score - 5-4 L
Brewers score that day - 11-6 W v. Pittsburgh