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Published: Sunday, 7/4/2004

IL notebook: Hens finishing unusual weekend

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Today the Mud Hens conclude one of the most unusual patches of schedule the franchise has ever faced.

On Thursday night, the Hens were at home. On Friday, the team was on the road. Yesterday, it was home again. Today, back on the road.

While playing in different places for four straight days may seem unusual, the concept of one-game homestands - or one-game road trips - isn't uncommon in the International League. Nearly every team has at least one this season; Richmond and Norfolk, two teams separated by less than 100 miles, have at least six one-game series on this year's schedule.

International League president Randy Mobley said part of the problem is caused by teams wanting to play home games during the Fourth of July holiday.

"Everybody wants to be at home during the holidays, so that's why you see a lot of 'choppiness' in the schedule," Mobley said. "We guarantee clubs will play a home game on the third or fourth if they want to be home, so that's why you see a lot of teams moving on Saturday."

This season, all but four IL teams - Louisville, Norfolk, Ottawa and Columbus - played at home on at least one of those two dates. Ottawa wished to be home on July 1, which is Canada Day, and that wish was granted.

Mobley said in the case of Columbus, that city's fireworks display was held on July 2. As a result, the Clippers wanted to play at home on that date and were willing to go on the road the next two days.

ATTENDANCE WATCH: With Thursday's crowd of 8,202 at Fifth Third Field, the Mud Hens had an attendance total of 310,172 through the first 45 home dates this season.

That attendance figure already is the eighth-highest single-season total in Toledo's professional baseball history.

If the Hens drew the expected 10,300 fans to the ballpark last night, their new attendance total of 320,472 would move this season into fifth on the all-time list.

The team attendance record is the 547,204 fans the Hens drew in 2002, the club's first season at Fifth Third Field. The Hens would need to average 8,720 per game in their final 26 dates to equal that mark.

WHATEVER WORKS: Recently Guillermo Rodriguez has been using a beach ball to work on his swing.

But the Mud Hens catcher hasn't been swinging at the beach ball; at the start of the last homestand he began taking swings with the ball wedged between his knees. The idea was an attempt to shorten his stride, slow his swing and help improve his balance while swinging.

The ploy seems to have worked. In the four-game series against Rochester, Rodriguez had five hits, including a double and two home runs, in 11 at-bats for a .455 batting average.

TOO MUCH TIME: When Thursday's game ended at 9:11 p.m. the sun had not set sufficiently for the Hens' planned post-game fireworks display.

No problem, though. The team's entertainment crew took the field with a frame of "human bowling," then kept things going with:

  • Six dance songs, including the Hokey Pokey, the Chicken Dance, the Cha-Cha Slide and the Macarena.

  • Three Hot Dog Races, two of which were won by Mustard.

  • Four messages on the scoreboard, including highlights from This Week In Baseball and a "Mud Hens Minute" with Andy Barkett.

    That kept the fans busy until the fireworks finally began at 9:50 p.m.



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