It's not often that fans come to Fifth Third Field to cheer for an umpire.
But that's been the case the last few nights for Toby Basner, the third-base ump during the Mud Hens' 8-7 loss to Louisville Tuesday night.
"It has definitely been busy," said Basner, who was born in Bowling Green and still has relatives who live in the area. "I had both sets of grandparents here, a number of aunts, uncles and cousins here, not to mention my immediate family.
"There were a lot of people here. It is nice to have some family and friends here to support you."
Basner, who turned 26 on July 29, is the youngest umpire in the International League.
"I first hopped on the field to umpire when I was 12 years old," he said. "I really enjoyed earning everyone's respect out there, and I enjoyed being in charge and controlling the game.
"I kept umpiring through high school, and I figured I was young enough to follow that dream and see where it took me."
Basner, whose family moved away from Bowling Green to Atlanta when he was 2 years old, took part in the Harry Wendelstedt umpire school at age 19. He has progressed quickly through the lower minors to reach the IL this season.
"There are a lot of similarities in the road the players and the umpires take," said Basner, who now lives in Gwinnett, Ga. "The way we climb the ladder is similar."
But Basner said he doesn't look back - or look at the road ahead, which may eventually include a trip to the majors.
"I take things one pitch at a time," Basner said. "Every time I'm on the field I tell myself to leave everything on the field.
"Whether I make the big leagues or I get sent home at the end of this crazy run, I'm going to know that I didn't leave anything behind."
Basner had a relatively quiet night as the third base umpire in a crazy game that saw Louisville steal the win by scoring a pair of runs with two outs in the ninth off Toledo closer Jay Sborz.
The Bats' rally began when Sborz hit pinch-hitter Corky Miller with a 1-2 pitch and gave up a one-out single to Yonder Alonso on an 0-2 pitch. Then with two outs Wladimir Balentien slammed a double off the wall in deep center to score the tying and winning runs.
"This was a disheartening loss," said Toledo manager Larry Parrish, whose team has lost three in a row. "When you score seven runs, you're supposed to win. And when you have rallied twice to take a lead into the ninth, you have to win."
The Bats' late comeback completed a game in which the Hens twice came back against a team that now has won six in a row and 17 of their last 18 games.
They scored a pair of runs in the first on a two-run double by Balentien, but the Mud Hens responded with a five-run third that included an RBI double by Will Rhymes and a two-run two-base hit by Ben Guez.
The Bats responded with a fifth-inning outburst in which they sent 10 men to the plate and scored four times to take a 6-5 lead.
The Hens retied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Rhymes singled, stole second and scored on a single by Andy Dirks. Then Toledo took the lead with a run in the seventh as Casper Wells extended his current hit streak to 11 games with a one-out double, then raced home on a single by Dirks.
Dirks finished the game with three singles and three RBIs, giving him a .414 batting average and six RBIs in his first seven games with Toledo.
"[Louisville starter Matt] Maloney made Dirks look bad the night before," Parrish said. "That's why it was good to see Dirks come back with three big hits against a left-hander."
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