Let's play ball. In fact, as Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks would say, let's play two.
The Toledo Mud Hens begin their home schedule today against the Columbus Clippers, last year's International League champions. As an added treat on the 10th anniversary of downtown's Fifth Third Field, opening-day fans will get two games for the price of one — a rarity these days.
Sunshine and blue skies (let's hope), green grass, and red-brown infield dirt form a backdrop for the brilliant white uniforms worn by young men playing a boy's game. The crack of bats splits the crisp April air. The roar of a sold-out crowd cheers the hometown team. Is anything better than Opening Day?
The Mud Hens are a Toledo and northwest Ohio institution that traces its roots to the early days of professional baseball in the 1880s. The decision to move the team downtown a decade ago was, and still is, one of the best things to happen to the city.
Toledo comes alive in April. Families gather at the ballpark, business people network, and baseball fans of all ages relive childhood dreams.
The Hens have a new manager this year, former major leaguer Phil Nevin. He takes over for Larry Parrish, who became hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves after spending seven seasons here and winning two Governors' Cups.
This year's roster is the usual mix of familiar and new faces — youngsters hoping for a ticket to the major leagues and veterans who want one more shot at The Show. For now, however, they are Toledo's team, embraced by a city that has known more than its share of hard times in recent years.
The Mud Hens offer surcease from daily cares. They carry with their bats and gloves the hopes that spring eternal in April. Toledo is home to a great baseball venue that is home to a storied team that has excited generations of loyal fans.
Who could ask for more? See you at the ballpark.