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Published: Sunday, 9/5/2004

Mud Hens offer excitement and slice of Americana

I felt good all over I was a part of the city that was home for more than four decades, and well may be home again. I went into the women s restroom, looked in the mirror, slapped myself in the face, and thought, Why haven t you been here before? What s wrong with you? I meant well, but had never come down to Fifth Third Field for a Mud Hens game.

Talk about being a day late and a dollar short, I just about was when I finally made it to the ballpark. I had been driving past it on Toledo visits, looking at it and exclaiming how stunning it is.

I have spent some pretty lean years in downtown Toledo, when nothing was happening after the work crowd left to head for the suburbs. It is truly exciting to see the Summit and St. Clair streets alive with families heading for the ballpark.

Let me tell the folks who still haven t been down to the game: The downtown park is awesome, and the ticket price is right. There aren t many places of entertainment you can go for $8. But it s more than entertainment. The game is a slice of Americana that is played in every corner of the country, from backyard sand lots to high-tech fields like Fifth Third.

Go almost anywhere in America and mention Toledo and someone will know about the Mud Hens, and I suppose there are a few who know that the team was the Swamp Angels in 1896. Later that year, the name was changed to the Mud Hens.

I couldn t keep my eyes off a young couple with two little fellows. The older boy took his bat and ball to the game. His dad had a full-size mitt, perhaps to keep handy in case a ball came their way. Cheering for the home team that lost may have taught the young man a lesson in sportsmanship and how to be a good loser.

Our general admission seats were in the K section, behind third base. When I called in for the tickets, the agent said they were excellent seats, but when I showed the ticket taker the seats, he told me it was a danger zone, where low balls sometimes fly in. He related an incident when a woman was hit on the head and was hospitalized. Just keep your eye on the ball and you ll be OK, he said.

Some of us don t keep their eyes on the ball every minute because we are too busy looking around and checking out things.

I m always curious about people, who they are and where they are from. I find pleasure comparing family resemblances and watching grandchildren who appear to appreciate the company of grandparents.

At Fifth Third Field it s natural curiosity to look up to the ring of suites on the top level and wonder if it s that big a deal to have special seating, or if sitting with the regular folks is the true way to watch a baseball game. The $8 seat was mighty comfortable and was a far cry from backless bleacher seats. Of course, I wouldn t turn down an invitation to a suite next season.

The red-shirted employees carry products, from cotton candy to beer, that appeal to a wide age range of spectators. I wish now I had tipped the nice man cruising the section carrying a pink terry towel. He gallantly wiped off our seats, chatted about the weather, and was off to clean more seats.

That this is America s game was proved by two responses from the crowd. I didn t see one person who didn t jump to his or her feet when the marching band from Tiffin University played the national anthem. In the eighth inning, Mud Hen fans on all sides of the park were in good voice to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Those words can be more than a song today at 6 p.m. and tomorrow at noon at Fifth Third Field for the last games of the regular season. Go ahead, sit in section K. It s safe.



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