Napoli savors Hens’ success, plans for All-Star weekWritten by Scott Calhoun | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Mud Hens and its fans are savoring a storybook season that culminated in the team’s first IL Governor’s Cup crown since 1967. A franchise-record 556,995 fans witnessed the Hens go from worst to first while amassing a league- and AAA-best record of 89-55 during the regular season before grabbing the Cup by sweeping the Indianapolis Indians.
Larry Parrish has been named the Sporting News’ 2005 Minor League Manager of the year in addition to winning International League Manager of the Year.
“In ‘Field of Dreams’ someone said something along the lines of ‘the cosmic tumblers clicking into place.’ That happened here this summer. Toledo got to enjoy that where everything just fell into place,” General Manager Joe Napoli said.
Top Hens players Chris Shelton and Curtis Granderson departed permanently for Motown in the middle of the Hens’ season to assist the Tigers, but Napoli said their absence was overcome by those “cosmic tumblers.”
“It’s so easy to overstate the chemistry after you win but the fact of the matter was, if you were looking to epitomize chemistry this was the club to perform a case study on,” he said.
How does Toledo’s pride and joy follow up? Napoli said not since the winter prior to Fifth Third Field’s inaugural season has he and his staff been so excited and busy planning for the following year. The reigning IL champions are set to host the 2006 AAA All Star game during the second full week of July.
It will give the franchise the opportunity to showcase what is already widely acknowledged as the premier minor league baseball facility.
“The fans now have a ballpark they can brag about. And it’s a regular block party every day we have a game. I can’t tell you how many times throughout the park fans have introduced us to friends and family they’ve brought in from out of town to show off Fifth Third Field,” Napoli said.
The block party is set to become minor ball’s Mardi Gras when fans, players and media from all over the nation descend on Downtown next July to enjoy the nationally televised game and accompanying festivities.
Napoli said festivities will run July 10 to July 12, when the game is played.
The annual All Star Home Run Derby will be at Fifth Third the evening of July 10.
“We have a lot of unique twists during the derby that we will be announcing soon,” Napoli said.
During all three days there will be a fan festival in a joint gala with the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, which will begin its annual LPGA tournament July 13. Featured golfers to play the Farr will be on-hand to greet Toledo’s sports fans.
The festival will consist of baseball interactive games and clinics, autograph sessions, live music and behind-the-scenes tours, along with other activities.
Napoli said as part of the gala festivities on July 11. There will be a free, massive fireworks show launched off of the High Level Bridge spanning the Maumee River Downtown.
“We’re looking forward to filling up both banks of the Maumee,” Napoli said.
Napoli said there will be a ceremony for the fans to have that opportunity when the club opens its home schedule next spring.
“We won on the road so we didn’t have the appropriate party to celebrate. That’s going to take place Opening Day in 2006,” he said.