COLUMBUS - To celebrate the opening game in Huntington Park and the Columbus Clippers' new affiliation with Cleveland, a group of former Indians that included legendary pitcher Bob Feller and early 1980s stars Len Barker and Joe Charbonneau participated in the pre-game festivities Saturday.
The Toledo Mud Hens responded to a sellout crowd of 11,950 the way only a hot team such as theirs can hope to - with an early lead and pitching to back it up.
Mike Hessman smashed a one-out, two-run double to left in the first inning, and Toledo rode the pitching of Ruddy Lugo, Joel Zumaya and Casey Fien to a 3-1 victory.
The win moved Toledo to 8-2 overall and four games ahead of the Clippers (4-6) in the International League West Division.
"It's like night and day compared to [Cooper Stadium]," Hessman said of the Clippers' former park. "You just have to approach it like every other day. We got a couple runs and took a little away from their momentum."
The early runs were particularly important considering how well Columbus starter Jeremy Sowers (0-1) pitched over the next five innings.
Danny Worth and Ryan Raburn opened the game with back-to-back singles. Sowers then struck out Wilkin Ramirez before Hessman's double.
The Mud Hens left five base runners on over the next five innings and failed to score again against Sowers, who had seven strikeouts over six innings.
In the first day of his major league rehab assignment, Zumaya took over in the sixth for Lugo, who was battling a tight hamstring.
Zumaya was scheduled to pitch two innings and did so with little trouble, giving up two hits and no runs while striking out one.
Zumaya isn't expected to pitch today in the second of a two-game series at Columbus but will be used in back-to-back games once the team returns to Toledo, according to manager Larry Parrish.
"I just wanted to go out there and try to throw strikes," Zumaya said. "I didn't get to be involved with an opening day, so it was nice to be able to pitch in their new stadium. I felt fine."
Fien then struck out three while tossing two scoreless innings to pick up his second save for the Mud Hens, who had their home opener spoiled two days ago with a 2-1 loss to Columbus.
"We had a lot of other chances [after the first inning]," Parrish said. "We got a lot of base runners. We've seen [Sowers] a lot, and he pitches right-handers inside a lot. By about the third inning, he started hitting that inside corner.
"We've been pitching well so far. Ruddy pitched well, and Zumaya looked like he was healthy."
NOTES: Game two of the series will feature Chris Lambert (1-0, 2.25) against Jack Cassel (0-1, 16.20)... Although no home runs were hit in the new park, Parrish believes the opening game will end up being an exception in that category. The wall in right field stands 22 feet tall but is just 318 feet from home plate.