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Published: Thursday, 7/13/2006

Toledo all starry-eyed with big game

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Evelyn and Dick Buchholz, of Lambertville, clap and cheer for the International League all-stars. Evelyn and Dick Buchholz, of Lambertville, clap and cheer for the International League all-stars.
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• View the Triple-A All-Star Game. Triple-A All-Star Game

One of Suzy and Bob VanOrden's first activities as a married couple was to attend the ProMedica Health System All-Star festivities downtown this week.

The VanOrdens got back from their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic on Monday. The Toledoans hit the SeaGate Centre for FanFest yesterday before going to Fifth Third Field for the Triple-A All-Star Game.

"It's really cool that Toledo finally had a chance to have an event like this," Mr. VanOrden, 27, said. "Seeing the players is great. Some of these guys, when they're famous in the majors, we'll be able to say we saw them play minor league ball."

In the matchup between players from the International League and Pacific Coast League, the IL dominated, winning 6-0.

The scene at Fifth Third Field didn't resemble a normal Mud Hens game.

ESPN camera crews filled a parking lot and print and electronic media overflow sat in section 118. A crowd of 11,300 packed the ballpark. Extra security, from purse searches to drug dogs, was part of the protocol.

The VanOrdens came an hour early and watched the grounds crew create stars in the dirt around first, second, and third base. They started one family tradition before marriage: an 18-game ticket package, which is how they secured their All-Star Game tickets.

"We knew we wanted to have a chance to go to this, so we made sure to get the season package this year," Mrs. VanOrden said.

Throughout the game, team mascots roamed the concourses. Between innings, Larry Parrish, manager of the IL and the Mud Hens, walked along the third-base line and chatted with fans. Portable grandstands were set up just beyond the left-field fence for use by Monroe Street passers-by.

In the third inning, fans in the crowd showed their alliance to the IL squad by erupting in cheers when PCL third baseman Justin Leone was charged with a throwing error.

Stephen Joyce, 13, and his brother, Alex, from Lambertville, said what they most wanted from the All-Star Game were home runs. They were rewarded when the IL first baseman Kevin Witt hit a homer to right-center field in the third inning. Later, the Mud Hens' Ryan Raburn also hit a home run.

Stephen had a cast on his right hand because of a broken finger from sliding into a base in his own game. He said his goal was to catch a foul ball, because with a cast on one hand, "that'll make SportsCenter top 10."

Another pair of relative newlyweds was in the stands: retirees Richard and Evelyn Buchholz, who went to every All-Star event.

The Buchholzes wed three years ago after they each lost their first spouse. Their first date was a Mud Hens playoff game in 2002.

"I asked God for somebody who loved baseball, and I got lucky," Mr. Buchholz said.

"We signed up for the rest of it because we like the park so much," Mrs. Buchholz said.

"We like the Tigers, but this is more fun."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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