Friday, May 06, 2005

Fox in the Henhouse

Brandi has been in Texas since Tuesday, and will be there until next Tuesday. Since she's getting a week's vacation, I decided I wanted to do something fun myself this weekend. I knew I had to keep my sights lower than hopping a plane to somewhere cool for a couple of days, so instead I bought myself a ticket and went tonight to a Toledo Mud Hens baseball game.

In terms of sports, baseball was my first love. It was the gateway drug that led to the incredible passion (some may go so far as to call it an obsession) I now have for football and basketball. Still, although other sports may have taken the primary position, I've lost none of the fondness I had originally for baseball. It's just a totally different experience from the other sports I love.

The game was set to start at 7:00, and I got off work at 5:00. I work just outside of Toledo, so it would have been silly for me to come back home to Bowling Green and then head back out for the game. Had I done that, I essentially would have had to leave almost as soon as I got here. Instead, I took my time getting out of work and then went to Best Buy to kill some time. I'm a big fan of just about everything they sell there (CDs, DVDs, electronics), but I managed to spend about forty-five minutes in there without buying anything.

From there I headed downtown to the stadium. Fifth Third Field (a.k.a. "The Henhouse") is a beautiful facility, an absolute jewel for downtown Toledo, but the area in which it is set leaves a lot to be desired. There are a couple of restaurants and bars in the area, but there are also quite a few run-down and abandoned buildings. The immediate area has a lot of foot traffic during baseball season on game days, but otherwise it's a virtual ghost town. There is some talk of building a new hockey/basketball arena in that area, which I think would be a great idea. It would be another attraction to put the area in use year-round, and would really help the economy for the entire area. As slowly as Toledo seems to move on items like this, though, I would be surprised to see any moves made anytime in the near future. That's a shame, too. I think the area has potential to explode if someone would be willing to sink the time and money into it.

At any rate, I got there about an hour before gametime. There was no problem killing the time, walking around the stadium and browsing in the gift shop. I like being there that early, in order to soak up the atmosphere. Baseball has an atmosphere that the other sports can't quite match. It has as much to do with the sounds and smells of the stadium as with anything else. It brings back a lot of memories. I took my seat shortly before the game started and settled in to relax and watch the game.

Watching the game was sort of an interesting experience. The Mud Hens (the triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) played the Louisville River Bats, the triple-A club of the Cincinnati Reds. I've been a Reds fan practically as long as I've been alive. On the other hand, I've been to several Mud Hens games over the past three years, and I've become at least a casual fan. I wanted them to win the game, but I also wanted to see all of Louisville's players do well. It almost felt like I was rooting for both teams, to a certain extent, which is a strange feeling. Since baseball is such a laid-back sport, though, it wasn't too much of a problem.

It was a great night to be out for a game. The weather was perfect--it was a clear night, and it just barely got chilly enough that I needed to put on my sweatshirt for the later innings. The seat I was ticketed for was underneath an overhang, about halfway down the third-base line. In the fifth inning, I gave up that seat and went further down the line to sit in the open air in left field. It was a good choice. The seat in the infield was a little closer to the action, but there's not a bad seat in the whole place. Being in the open air allowed me to see a lot more of what was going on, and I just enjoyed the whole experience more out there.

The Mud Hens won the game 3-0. Shortly after the last out was recorded, there was a post-game fireworks show. The fireworks shows are extremely popular, to the point where I think they do them after each Friday and Saturday game. Let me tell you, the Mud Hens know how to put on a fireworks show. I'm a big fireworks fan, and the shows I've seen at Fifth Third Field are probably the best I've seen anywhere. Just when you think you've seen the grand finale, they allow for a dramatic pause, and then come back bigger and better than before. It was a good way to finish off a good night at the ballpark.

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