Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish was glad for the season-opening series in Indianapolis to end. Victory Field is a big yard, and the wind blew in for three straight nights.
He was equally glad to depart Louisville late Wednesday after a series there. A Kentucky cold snap had the Hens seeing their collective breath, and those fastballs in on the hands felt like bee stings.
So the Hens reported for their home opener yesterday with the sun beating down and a serious hint of spring dancing on lukewarm air.
"We had to come north to warm up," Parrish said.
Finally, a little hitting weather.
Well, sort of.
A record crowd at Fifth Third Field went home disappointed last evening as the Hens managed to parlay 10 hits into just a lone run in a 2-1 loss to Columbus.
The 13,100 on hand and the 10,000, give or take, who will be back tonight for the second game of the series should fear not. When all is said and done, clutch hitting should be the least of this team's problems.
Mike Hessman will soon be banging balls off the scoreboard in left. History in the lower minors says Ryan Roberson and Wilkin Ramirez should do some of the same. Ryan Raburn isn't a .206 hitter any more than Clete Thomas is a .188 hitter.
It's early. A week or so in, batting averages are rarely as good or as bad as the numbers might indicate. And Toledo averaged six runs per game during that windy, chilly road trip that
resulted in a 6-1 start.
"Over the course of the season, I can't imagine us not swinging the bats well," Parrish said. "We got a bunch of hits today, but nobody could get a big hit at the right time. It seemed like we had guys out there [on base] every inning. But "
But if the Hens' hitters appeared to be sleep-walking at times, well, maybe they were. Don't discount the effect of an all-night bus trip from Louisville with a 4 a.m. arrival in Toledo and little more than 12 hours between that and the first pitch.
The Hens would have liked to bust out on their home opener because glorious spring days are made for such things. And there should be a rule that home teams get to win on a day the community turns into the next best thing to a holiday.
Some parking lots were putting up the "FULL" signs three hours before the first pitch. The pubs and restaurants surrounding the ballpark could have done the same except, well, there's always room for one more. After a winter of discontent in a town in tough times, the city turned festive.
It is the best day in our best game, and the very best day for one generation to hand off to the next.
As the sun disappeared in the latter innings and a bit of a chill moved in, a grandmother who has seen plenty of opening days unfurled two blankets, one for herself and one for the weeks-old infant she held, a child who will have absolutely no memory of the game but will hopefully embrace a lifetime of his/her own openers.
With a couple more runs by the home team, of course, if possible.
Contact Blade sports columnist
Dave Hackenberg at:
At toledoblade.com on Tuesdays, Hack and news columnist Roberta de Boer offer point-counterpoint on issues large and small.