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Published: 4/17/2009

13,100 fans revel in Hens' opener

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Braeden Steiner of Toledo hopes to catch a foul ball at Fifth Third Field. Braeden Steiner of Toledo hopes to catch a foul ball at Fifth Third Field.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Christmas finally arrived yesterday for 12-year-old Trent Morelock.

Morelock and his mother, Kim, of Rossford, were at Fifth Third Field for the Mud Hens' home opener. Trent received the tickets as a Christmas present last year.

"He eats, sleeps and breathes baseball," Kim said.

Trent wasn't the only one falling into that category in downtown Toledo. The ballpark saw a single-game record crowd of 13,100, breaking last year's opening day record of 12,750. The Hens lost 2-1 to Columbus.

Hens pitcher Scot Drucker won't get to experience pitching in front of the home crowd until Tuesday, but he is looking forward to it.

"It's a great atmosphere," Drucker said. "That pumps me up, I love it. I know the guys play better behind it, we feed off the energy in the crowd."

David Briggs, 22, and his girlfriend, Fawn Kiriam, 18, both of Bowling Green, attended their first Hens opener. Their friend, 29-year-old season-ticket holder Jeff Rice, treated them to tickets in the fifth row on the first base line.

The warm, sunny weather couldn't have been better for Briggs' and Kiriam's inaugural opening day experience. But according to Kiriam, "I would have come in the rain, too."

Rice is a veteran fan of both major and minor-league ballparks, and there's nowhere else he'd rather be than the "Hen House."

"[In the majors] the food costs more and you sit 40 rows back," Rice said. "Here you get the most out of it, you can see the game and you get to know the players."

For others, the opener provided an opportunity for a day of fun amid some tough times. Don Anderson took off from work two hours early to take his daughter, Angie Banks, to the game. Banks is visiting home from Covington, Ga., after her house was foreclosed.

"We've been so focused on her problems," Anderson said. "I thought it would be good to get away."

Anderson had hoped his wife, Joy, would join them, but she expects to be laid off from her job as a coffee hostess today and was too distraught to come.

Banks took in her first Mud Hens game in 30 years from an outfield picnic table, enjoying a catered pregame meal.

"This is a fantastic escape," Banks said.

Steven Nearhood, 10, and his mother, Paula, got to Fifth Third Field when gates opened at 4 p.m. to seek out one of the best outfield seats at the first-row picnic table in left-center field.

Steven came armed with his baseball glove in hopes of catching a home run ball. He's had luck in the past, obtaining a ball at his first Hens game five years ago. He also caught one at

Comerica Park in Detroit a few years ago.

"We took a big risk that it would be nice weather, getting tickets on opening day," Paula said.

"We could not have gotten a better day."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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