Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 17. Toledo Mud Hens; Toledo, OH. In Which Our Heroes Find the Sketchiest Ice Cream Truck Ever, Root for Jamie Farmadillo, and Zach Changes His Tune.

Thanks to another long night courtesy of Independence Day and the urge it raised after that to kill more aliens, we got a bit of a late start today. That barely left us time to make the burn to Toledo before first pitch, but we squeezed in just under the wire. Good thing, too; the game was nearly a sellout. More on that later!

In our one meaningful pit stop at a Speedway for gas, something awesome happened without any outside interference for me:

I celebrated by purchasing the lunch of champions: A Coke Cherry Zero, Jamaican Jerk Slim Jim, Milky Way, and a lotto ticket.

Anyway, then we got to Toledo. And I gotta say, my first impression of this town was a little sleazy. But really I'm just basing that on their ice cream trucks. Which all had large red signs saying "Watch Children." Well, all except this guy, who just took it to the next level.
My mom always told me not to accept free candy from strangers. But if I buy it from this guy, that's totally legit, right?
Yeah, that's right, run! We can still see it says "Watch for Kidz" on the back.

Anyway, we carefully avoided all vans and made it to the stadium, which was walking distance from our hotel. How convenient, Toledo...

Before I get on to the actual baseball, I just want to give big ups to the three generations of fans in front of us - C.J., Javian, and Justin - for taking time to give us their thoughts on the stadium and the team. We always appreciate an opportunity to get locals' takes on their parks here at Scrappy Journeymen. Even though we know we already have all the answers.

To the game!


1.) It's a Sunday night on a holiday weekend, sure, but the game was nearly sold out! We got there just in time to get 2 of the last seats in section 219, in the upper deck allllll the way out in right field, as far as you could be from home plate. The total attendance? 9,481 Toledoans (Toledoites? Toledors? Toledonians?). Good for our best crowd of the trip!
Quantity over quality is the American way, after all.

2.) Did I say best? I meant biggest. The crowd energy for a stadium that size was regrettably lackluster, especially for Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

3.) They sold fresh pastries at a stand inside the stadium. And cheap, too: $1 for an M&M cookie! M&MMMMMMM!

4.) What is it with Toledo and bubbles? There was a machine blowing bubbles on every block it seemed. And we had to talk through a cloud of them to get into the stadium. I'm not complaining, mind you. Bubbles rock.

5.) The stadium experience was the closest thing to a Major League game we've gotten on this trip, except for, y'know, the actual Major League games we've been to. The stadium is huge and modern, with impressive graphics and fairly common inter-inning entertainment. The prices are pretty much the only thing Minor League about it ($10 parking, but $9 tickets?).

6.) Oh, and the Dippin' Dots knockoff stand called - I can't make this up, folks - Itty Bitz.

7.) TWO Jumbotrons? Seriously Major League, Toledo.

8.) We tried to eat a "Bloomin Bacon Burger," but they served us a regular bacon cheeseburger, sans the onion rings and Bistro sauce. I'm sure the Bloomin' would've been true to its name had we actually gotten served it.

9.) The race tonight? Jim Flealand (they're a Tigers affiliate) vs. Kitty Holmes (see kids? even if you're born in Toledo you, too could grow up to marry this guy) vs. Jamie Farrmadillo (my personal favorite). Jim Flealand won. I'm sure it was rigged.

10.) Toledo has the highest walls we've seen in the Minors, making home runs tricky unless you jack one to the 320' left field. Left-center is 406' with at least an 8 foot wall. Ben said there was no way we'd see a home run to that spot.

11.) We totally saw a home run hit to that exact spot that bounced once and out of the stadium. It must've been 450 feet. Super awesome.

12.) Dancing ground crew, but they didn't even have silly costumes. Guess AAA is too staid for that?

13.) After a catch by a fan in foul territory that the crowd cheered, the guy two rows behind us: "Oh, he used a glove! He's a grown man! USE YOUR HANDS!"

14.) In a similar vein, the drunks a few rows behind us screaming "This. Is. TOLEDO!" and "Oh yeeeeah, Toledo is gettin' Muddy tonight!" Respect the spirit, gents.

15.) How many ex-Braves landed in Toledo? Ben and I counted Gorkys Hernandez, Andy Marte, and - my personal favorite - Scott Thorman, who is showing a robust .216 BA and .264 OBP in AAA this season. Of course, we saw him get two hits including a double and score two runs. I like to think I bring out the best in Thor. You know, through my vicious and unceasing heckling.

16.) Another Major League point: these guys had a TV contract from the local Toledo cable provider. You can see their games televised! Awesome! Most teams only have radio.

17.) The park is - according to several fans we spoke with - a massive improvement over the older one, which was on the other side of town. This one is downtown, highly accessible, and revitalized the ever-loving hell out of its neighborhood.
The Toledo skyline. Wait, what? Toledo has a skyline?

18.) Indeed, the park was built atop a gutted warehouse and actually snakes around several other buildings, incorporating rather than flattening them. Quite clever.
Now that's what I call recycling, Toledo.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Beer Prices
4.5 pts: Not much local selection I could find, and all the InBev (oh, excuse me, Anheuser-Busch) products were the same. Just as well after three epic nights in Chicago.

Most Caloric Concession Item
6 pts: Of course we count combos! The Bloomin Bacon Burger, fries, and coleslaw? The best part is there's only one line to stand in to get everything you need.

Minor League Personalities
4 pts: Family out for a Nice Night Together? Bonus point for 3 generations. Teenagers on a Date? Yup. Drunkard? THIS. IS. TOLEDOOOOO after all. Minor League Diehard? Yeah, it's definitely a culture here in Toledo, despite the tameness of the crowd. Major League Fans? TONS of Tigers and Indians gear around. Still no Groupies, though...

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats
0 pts: BOOOOOOOO. Heck, we could barely even get full-price seats!

0 pts: I'm sure Toledoans would bring their A-game if they could, but the stadium is in the middle of downtown. There's just no space. So, no points. Sorry.

Funniest Roster Name
8 pts: Our strongest crop to date! Edging out with the win was Deik Scram, but honorable mentions go to Cale Iorg, Ben Guez, and Yu-Te Ni. I tried to convince Ben Scott Thorman was the funniest thing I'd ever heard, but he vetoed it.

Promotion Quality
5 pts: HUGE free programs that were awesome, and the fireworks would've been worth more if they didn't require a 45 minute wait after the game. I'm sure the kids loved meeting Charlie Brown, but Ben and I didn't really see the appeal. 

1 pt: Sparta didn't have too many minorities, either.

Men's Room
3 pts: Modern park. Majors attitude. What'd you expect?

Bonus points
+1 for fresh pastries, +2 for bubbles, +2 for THIS. BEING. TOLEDO!, +3 for multiple Jumbotrons, -1 for the wrong food order, +3 for a near-sellout, +2 for Jim Flealand and Jamie Farmadillo, +2 for the towering homer, +1 for "USE YOUR HANDS!", +3 for a TV contract, +5 for integrating the architecture so well with existing structures, +1 for the three-generation fans, +1 for Dippin Dots knockoff, +2 for all the ex-Braves

Total points: 57.5 points. 

Final Take: I'll be honest, I was a little cool on the Major League vibe of the park at first. It felt weird in the context of what this roadtrip was...supposed to be, I guess you could say. But after talking to locals who speak very highly of the new park, especially compared to the old one, I've changed my tune a bit. What the park does provide is an accessible and economical Major League experience for the people of Toledo. And that's gotta be worth something, right? The park and team were made for them, not for me. Get your priorities straight, Toledo. 7/10.

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