While the Mud Hens are poised to claim their third straight playoff berth on the field, the team is on the verge of a third consecutive record off the field as well.
This weekend the Hens look to make a big push toward not only breaking the team's single-season attendance record, but also surpassing the 600,000 barrier for the first time in franchise history.
To that end the team, which normally caps its attendance at 10,300 except for special events, will sell as many tickets as it can this weekend.
"The team has been playing well, and we're at a point where we can make a run at 600,000 attendance for the season," said Erik Ibsen, the team's assistant general manager/ticket sales and operations. "That's been the ultimate goal for us the last few years."
The result has been near-record crowds the last two nights. On Friday Fifth Third Field held 11,186 - now the ninth-largest crowd in the ballpark's history - and last night's crowd of 12,411 was the fourth-best at the six-year-old ballpark, not to mention the largest non-Opening Day crowd in team history.
It also was the 31st sellout this season and the 171st in the six-year history of Fifth Third Field.
The key component to last night's large crowd was a single-date group sales record, which was spurred by groups wanting to take advantage of the only August Saturday the Hens will be home.
"We had groups buying standing-room tickets, and tickets above and beyond their allotment, that got us on our way [toward the large crowd]," Ibsen said. "We had 5,000 group tickets at last night's game; typically a group sales figure of 4,000 is considered good for a Saturday night."
With a season total of 516,858 in 62 dates, Toledo's single-season record of 569,380 set last year is within reach. With nine home dates left, the Mud Hens need 83,142 fans - or an average of 9,238 fans per game - to reach the 600,000 goal.
"I could see where on Labor Day weekend, where if we have the demand for tickets, we would [sell an unlimited number of tickets]," Ibsen said. "Between now and then it's mostly weeknight games. I'd love to get to the point where we talk about that, but realistically we're talking about this weekend and Labor Day weekend."
PITCHING REPORT: Tigers' RHP Joel Zumaya made his third appearance with the Mud Hens last night and gave up two runs, two hits and two walks in an inning-plus of work.
Zumaya threw 30 pitches, 19 for strikes. His first fastball buzzed home plate at 98 miles per hour, and his fastest pitch of the night was clocked at 99. But most of his fastballs were thrown in the 94-to-96 range.
"I'll be ready to go Tuesday," Zumaya said. "And I expect [manager Jim Leyland] will throw me into the fire.
"But if people and waiting to see [100 mile-per-hour pitches], that probably will take a couple more games."
Zumaya's most impressive pitch probably was the curveball that froze Brent Abernathy for a called strike three, his lone whiff of the night.
Another Tigers pitcher, lefty Andrew Miller, will throw the first three innings of the Mud Hens' contest against Indianapolis tomorrow. Virgil Vasquez, the scheduled starter that night, is expected to pick up the contest in the fourth.
Tiger manager Jim Leyland and his coaching staff are expected to be at Fifth Third Field to watch Miller pitch. Tomorrow is an off day for Detroit.
FLASHBACK: The Mud Hens are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Governors' Cup championship team this weekend. Several members of that club were at the ballpark last night and Friday, and they will be back tonight to sign autographs.
Last night the current Mud Hens also wore throwback jerseys similar to the ones worn by the 1967 team. Those jerseys were auctioned off, with the proceeds to benefit the United Way.
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