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Published: Sunday, 7/2/2006

About ready to party: Mud Hens putting final touches on All-Star plans

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

For the Mud Hens, preparing to host this year's Triple-A All-Star Game is a little like planning for a wedding.

The Hens have tried to plan for everything. They've put painstaking effort into getting every detail right. And, when it comes time to host the actual event, the team will cross their fingers and hope everything turns out well.

"We've got, within this event, a five-day Fan Fest as well as the Home Run Derby, the Gala, the Fireworks, and the game itself," vice president/general manager Joe Napoli said. "And the number of moving parts within each project are just too numerous to count.

"In the last two weeks leading up to the event we've seen the final coordination of all those events take place. We're confident and excited about [hosting the event]."

The complex nature of the five-day event hasn't stopped the team from adding some new pieces to the puzzle in recent weeks. For example, at the Home Run Derby and at the All-Star Game selected fans will receive prizes based on what happens on the field.

Another recent change is the addition of the Distinguished Clown Corps, the group of area businessmen who don clown suits to entertain at special events. For the All-Star week the Clown Corps will wear mascot costumes and entertain during the Fan Fest.

"We had talked about something like this for about four months, but it has gained traction in the last week," Napoli said. "We're also going to have the original Philly Phanatic, Dave Raymond, come in to train these 'mascots.'‚óŹ"

Another way in which the All-Star Game mirrors a wedding is that the Mud Hens aren't precisely sure how many people they will be hosting at their event.

The seating arrangements at the ballpark will change for the All-Star Game. One change is that the picnic tables behind the outfield fences will be replaced by a private party tent that will remain in use during the contest. The party tent also will cause the team to sell fewer standing-room tickets inside the ballpark.

Another change will come behind the fence in left as Monroe Street will be blocked off between St. Clair and Superior streets for both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game. The team will sell $10 standing-room tickets to fans who want to watch the game from that area.

Napoli said the Mud Hens are confident they will host a successful event because of the response the team has received from business, the community, and even players on the current roster.

"We have been pleasantly surprised that somewhere between six and eight players who aren't All-Stars have promised to stick around [for the All-Star Game]," he said. "We will have them work at the clinics, sign autographs, and just enjoy the parties."

The Mud Hens will be represented by four players - pitchers Chad Durbin and Lee Gardner as well as outfielders Ryan Ludwick and Ryan Raburn. Toledo manager Larry Parrish and coaches Jeff Jones and Leon "Bull" Durham also will participate, along with trainer Matt Rankin.

While Parrish said he hasn't given much thought to his responsibilities as manager, he said he looks forward to filling out the lineup card.

"That's the beauty of an All-Star Game: there are a lot of options while making out the lineup," said Parrish, who will manage an all-star team for the first time in his 10-year managing career. "It's kind of like managing the Yankees, or managing the [Cincinnati Reds when they had the] Big Red Machine."

Parrish said his goal will be to make sure everyone selected to the International League team gets a chance to play.

"People may argue with this, but to me the idea behind an All-Star Game is to let everyone see action," Parrish said. "Everyone who watches the game wants to see their guys play.

"In terms of pitchers, that may mean coming in to pitch to only one or two hitters. And since there may be extra innings, I may have to hold one guy back who can go long [innings]."

Some of the pitchers may have starts within five days of the All-Star Game, which means they would be forced to pitch with less rest than normal. If that situation arises, Parrish said he will make sure the pitcher gets full rest.

"If a team tells me they don't want their guy to pitch, or if they only want their guy to pitch in an emergency, I can respect that," Parrish said.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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